Community happens.

One Sunday morning in May I was riding my newly purchased secondhand electric bike from the airport business park after an overnight shift baking. I had passed the youth hostel and was headed to West Tisbury, riding more on the road than on the sidewalk. It was 5:30 in the morning so there wasn’t any traffic, except for the West Tisbury police car headed my way from the other direction. It passed me and then slowed to a stop and turned around coming back toward me. Oh hell, I thought, maybe I am supposed to have lights or something.

He drove past me and stopped near New Lane. I came abreast of the police car and called out good morning as I saw him get out of the car. I still wondered if I was in trouble when he said, “Dude is that an electric bike?” Relief came over me. “Yeah it’s a blast,” I said. “I thought you were busting me for no lights or something.”

“No man, no I’ve been looking into these. How fast can she go?” he asked.

We went on like that for awhile. The officer and I had met before when I was living in the center of town. The encounters were always cordial and friendly.

A few days later, this time in the afternoon again coming from the airport toward West Tisbury on the bike, I came up to the intersection of Old County Road and decided to hang a right with the notion of taking Scotchman’s Lane to the Panhandle and on to my destination. As I turned the corner, I started musing on the benefits of the electric bike: the environmental aspects, no gas, no smoke etc. I looked ahead and saw an SUV turning the corner on to Scotchman’s, blue smoke following in its wake.

“See,” I said to myself. “Classic.”

I got to the Panhandle, passed the Ag Hall and turned the corner heading to Middle Road. There again I saw the SUV, this time stopped on the side of the road. As I got closer I could see fire at the rear driver’s side tire. I told the woman in the driver’s seat: “Hey, you better get away from the car! There’s a fire on the back tire.”

“Oh my God,” she said, “I’m on the phone with my father.”

“Well you better hang up and call 911, and better get away from the car,” I repeated.

I parked my bike a bit away and she moved away from the vehicle. I looked down the road toward the Ag Hall and saw a man I knew — we’ll call him George — coming out of his driveway to investigate. I called out to him: “Hey do you have a fire extinguisher?” He promptly turned around and headed back to his garage. Meanwhile, I ventured closer to the fire to see what was up. The axle was at a weird angle something was dripping and the tire was burning. I found some sand nearby and started chucking it at the fire. It helped a bit, then George showed up with the fire extinguisher and it did the trick.

Another driver stopped and asked if she could help. She parked up the road and came back to comfort the distressed driver. A member of the West Tisbury volunteer fire department — we’ll call him Granville — stopped his pickup truck with its flashing blue lights and began directing traffic after learning what was going on.

Before he left to work the traffic, Granville set eyes on the young woman and could see she was having trouble with the whole thing.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

“I already have been having a bad day, I can’t believe this is happening,” she said.

The firefighter looked right at her and pushed a finger on one of his nostrils. “In through the nose, out through the mouth. In through the nose, out through the mouth,” he said.

A spontaneous yoga breathing session. It seemed to help a bit, even if she didn’t apply the technique. As I participated in the event, talking to George and the young woman it occurred to me that she was lucky. The axle was just about broken, and if she had kept driving something worse might have happened.

I said to her: “You know your day may have just turned better after all.”

“What do you mean?” she replied.

I said: “Well first of all it’s a good thing you stopped, the axle is shot, and the other thing is you got to meet us!”

There was some chuckling but I meant it. She had met some members of the local community and got a yoga lesson. She seemed to be getting better when the fire chief — we’ll call him Manny — showed up.

“Everything okay?” he asked the crew,

“We’re doing good, we put it out,” the neighbor said.

The chief gave us the thumbs up asked if a tow had been arranged. We told him we were going to see if Kenny could come and bring to her to Mid Island Auto. He said “I’ll go get Kenny,” and with another thumbs up he drove off.

All the connections were complete. The young woman was okay and the SUV was in good hands. The rest of us hung out a bit, George and I trying to get the pin back in the fire extinguisher, Granville guiding traffic with a friendly hand.

Then we were each back on our own trails again.

Joe Keenan is a roofer, baker, musician and longtime Islander.