You meet an interesting cast of characters when your car breaks down.
This weekend, I planned perfectly for a trip to Iowa to see my friends from Camp perform a life of Christ Mime...it's at least an hour-long production...really good stuff...I had so been looking forward to it. And this was the only time they would be close enough to me (even 3 and 1/2 hours at that!) for me to be able to justify going. I emailed a good friend from Chicago and she agreed to go with me. We rearranged our schedules (which, for me, included rearranging preaching schedules), packed a survival kit, and even took the newer of the two cars (hers) so as to avoid car trouble.
It was the coldest day of the year. 2 degrees, with a wind chill far below 0. Ouch.
We were only a half hour down the road when another driver on the road got us to roll down our window. "You have a flat tire," they hollered. That was about 3:15 in the afternoon.
Sigh. We really didn't have time for this. We kept driving on it, hoping to get to a gas station.
No such luck. It started smoking. Another driver stopped to assist us. My friend, Johnna, called Geico's road side service. A towtruck who could change our tire was only about 5 minutes away. He showed up, with a pick-up truck already on his towtruck. But that was fine. He would just change our tire and we would limp down the road till we got somewhere that could give us a new tire or patch us up.
He motioned for us to roll down our window. "We might have a problem," he said. Apparently, the last time Johnna had had her tires rotated, they had torqued the caps on the lug nuts so hard that they became warped, making the tires impossible to remove with ordinary tools. We would have to be towed to a shop.
The tow truck driver dumped the pickup he was carrying and was all ready to tow us into town to the nearby Farm and Fleet. We hopped in the tow truck. But before we did, we made sure we were to leave the car running. We were. We shut the door.
Oops. We had locked Johnna's keys in the running car. Happily, our kind tow truck man could get back in. (What couldn't he do???)
Farm and Fleet was full up. They were the only shop open in town. So the tow truck driver took us to a shop owned by his brother. I don't think it was an official shop. But he said he would take a look at the tire...which they quickly determined was shot and that we needed a new one.
"Take a seat in our waiting room, girls," they said. Waiting room? We didn't see one...there were a couple of lawn chairs by the heater, so we sat down....
...and quickly noticed that a man was balanced up on a ledge, trying to fix the heater. The blower wasn't working. They were afraid it would blow up! Finally, it got started up and the owner of the shop yelled out, "Praise the Lord!" But then they were afraid that carbon monoxide had entered the air. So they all stood in a line facing the heater..."It'll sting your eyes if there's carbon monoxide," they said. Apparently, there wasn't.
We waited for about an hour and a half...thinking someone had gone to town to get our tire. They hadn't. Finally, we all piled into a truck...it wasn't owned by any one connected with the shop. It was just the neighbor's truck. We thought we were just going to make a quick couple of stops. It turned into a whole string of errands....the owner of the shop had a sick kid, so we had to stop at drug stores to get medicine for him...only they kept closing just as we would come to them.
Finally at 6:30, I said, "you know, we really need to get going," and they finally realized they had kept us a while. (Maybe we're just too much fun?) By 7:30, they got us out of there.
And yet...odd as it might seem...we had an awful lot of fun with those guys....just country guys with some chivalry left in their blood, taking care of "the girls" (as they called us). They carried the tire for us, cleaned their icky shop bathroom for us, and treated us with respect. They seemed to genuinely enjoy each other. One of the men actually talked like a duck...like Donald Duck...but the owner of the shop treated him with the utmost respect and kindness...no making fun...and it was clear that the man with the funny voice was very smart when it came to cars....he seemed to know everything about them. You know, it's not often that you meet a group of guys that treat you with respect. And especially car guys who don't act like you're stupid.
We learned a lot of things this weekend. But one thing we learned was that there are some gentlemen left in this world.