The following is a true story. Not that they all aren’t, but I’m just having trouble believing it myself so I felt like I should let you guys know, I’m not making this sh*t up.
I was driving home from work on Thursday, listening to my audiobook of Pride and Prejudice.
I had just passed the Columbia bridge, when all of the sudden a loud thumping noise came from the car to my left. It boomed in my eardrums, and I was sure there was no car in a half-mile radius who couldn’t hear it. I looked over at the driver in complete disbelief. I actually got kinda annoyed, like that episode of South Park with the Harley motorcycle gang. Why does anybody NEED to be that loud? How absurdly obnoxious.
Then, several cars started to pass me. I watched them as they zoomed around – at least four in a row, in fact. They seemed to be taking intentional measures not to be behind me… I had parted my lane like a backwards Red Sea.
This annoyed me, too. WHAT?! I’m going the speed limit, you jerks.
I began to realize that my car was shaking. The travel coffee mug in my cupholder bounced up and down like a jackhammer. I bounced up and down like a jackhammer.
The thudding got louder, and my car shook so violently that my head actually hit the roof. It finally started to dawn on me that maybe it’s MY CAR making the thunderous noise, maybe there’s something wrong here, maybe that’s why nobody wanted to be behind me.
But I scanned my mirrors and surroundings for any sign of danger, and came up short. There was no smoke, I wasn’t leaving a trail of anything behind me on the road, and I still barreled along at 70 miles an hour. Also, on a completely unrelated note, I don’t exactly have thousands of dollars just lying around for car repair. This may or may not have also crossed my mind at this moment, and I may or may not have been floating down a river called denial. Maybe… umm… maybe nothing’s wrong.
I made it about another 50 feet before ANOTHER loud noise, a crack followed by flap-flap-flap-flap started up.
Okay, so something’s wrong. But uhh, maybe I can still get home?
Home was still a good 5 miles away. So between the pounding and shaking and every other car steering clear of me, I conceded. I flicked on my hazards and pulled over to the side of the freeway.
Traffic whipped past me, causing my car to jostle a little with each gust of wind. I held my breath and stepped out to inspect the damage.
I blew out a tire. Not the way you see it in commercials where somebody drives over a nail and the thing slowly deflates like a limp balloon. No, I blew out a tire the way you slash through wrapping paper on Christmas morning. My tire had been stuffed through a paper shredder, a victim of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
I’ve owned my car for almost 8 years now, I feel I should be well-versed in every nook and cranny, and I was 99% positive I didn’t have a spare tire on hand. I double-checked the trunk, and my suspicions were confirmed.
I’m ashamed to admit that I sat there with literally no idea what my next move should be. I had a vague memory of AAA handling things like this, but a quick look at the card in my wallet informed me that my membership expired in November of last year. Is this an insurance thing? Should I call them? Or a tire store? Will I need a tow truck? My absolute ignorance crushed and embarrassed me.
It was then, my owner’s manual lying open on my lap and the Jane Austen audiobook still playing in the background… when a man knocked on my car window. He had pulled up behind me in a big raised truck, and stood outside my car in a white T-shirt, a barbed wire tattoo peeking out of his right sleeve. “I can help you!” he shouted.
Much of our conversation, in fact, took place through sporadic shouts – yelling over the absolutely deafening roar of cars whipping by. Have you ever stood on the side of a freeway before? It’s like Nascar. I think my ears will be ringing for weeks.
We somehow managed to communicate enough, and after looking at my owner’s manual for about a half a second, he went straight to work. Turns out, I did in fact have a spare tire hidden away under a top-secret disappearing trapdoor in my trunk. (I say disappearing, because I absolutely positively checked there) Not only that – he even found a jack underneath my driver’s seat. I was sure next he would pull out a rabbit and a top hat from my glove compartment. (What other secrets are you hiding from me, car?)
In minutes, the old shredded tire was in my trunk, and he was sopping his forehead with the back of his hand as he tightened the last screw. I thanked him over and over again, and made awkward gestures with my hands… not having any idea how to repay him. I was thinking, Is a hug too much? Hugs are too much for strangers, aren’t they? when he turned and got back into his truck.
I watched his car disappear in disbelief, still not even sure what had happened. The freeway continued to zoom by me in noisy, rapid waves.
After a few moments of this, I shook my head to clear it, got back into the car and started home. I’m happy to report that I made it back safely, and as I type this my car is in capable hands at Les Schwab.
Call me cynical – but I just can’t help it, I’ve been racking my brain for ulterior motives. Why on earth would he stop to help me? He even admitted that he wasn’t even ON this side of the freeway – he caught sight of me going the complete opposite direction. Which means he had to overshoot it, exit, and turn around and come back. Then do the same thing again afterward! It interrupted his commute, added 20 minutes to his day, and he got absolutely nothing in return for it.
Nothing, that is, except a girl who will be forever grateful and singing his anonymous praises, and who will probably jump at the next chance to help somebody for no reason. Nothing, I guess, except the knowledge that he did a nice thing for a complete stranger.
Nothing but the realization that sometimes kindness is just kindness… wading through the bad, and making the world a better place like magic. Nothing but the fact that there is (apparently) still hope in the world.