Steve Martaindale

Author of the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series

Nice people

nice-peopleI recently came across a comment to a post somewhere: “Some of the nicest people are tow truck drivers.”

While I believe you can find “some of the nicest people” in just about any profession, I do have a wonderful story about a tow truck driver.

It was the August after I graduated high school. I quit my summer job a week early to visit an uncle in Idaho.

This was a big deal for me. My family did not travel much; my father just didn’t care to. So I was certainly spreading my wings by driving solo more than 1,400 miles from home, seeing real mountains for the first time, being entirely on my own in the big, wide world.

I drove my dad’s 1960 Ford Ranchero and part of the logic behind that was its inability to move much faster than 55 mph would help keep me from violating the newly adopted national speed limit. Another “benefit” was the gas gauge didn’t work, so I watched the odometer and refilled about every 100 miles or so, thereby guaranteeing I would stop often.

Now, this vehicle – a three-speed on the column – had a habit of the transmission hanging up. To fix it, we just popped the hood and forced the rods (proper term? I don’t know) loose. Never had been a big deal.

My second day on the road found me in Colorado and my mother was expecting a call this evening. I was running a little late, so I stopped somewhere in Colorado City and called collect to report everything was going great. My aim that night was Colorado Springs, just a way up the interstate.

I easily found the Motel 6 and started up the steep driveway when I saw the “No Vacancy” sign illuminated. I stopped, slammed the transmission in reverse … and it locked up. So, here I was, stuck in a (thankfully wide) driveway and unable to move.

I set the brake really well to keep the car from rolling down the hill once I pounded it out of gear and proceeded to yank on the rods. I grabbed the hammer from behind the seat and banged on them. This went on for several minutes until I decided it was hopeless.

The man behind the glass at the Motel 6 recommended a tow truck driver and let me use his phone. I remember the driver was having dinner and watching a ball game and he told me he would be there soon.

He hooked up to my car and we started a seemingly long drive across town to a transmission shop that worked late. Along the way, I told him my story about where I was headed.

“After this, though, I may have to turn around and head back home,” I said. I wasn’t carrying much money and, of course, no credit card.

When we reached the shop, he dropped the car and talked to a guy he knew. He checked it out and reported it was fine. We decided that it was the force put on the transmission while it sat on the hill that kept me from fixing it myself. Had I gotten someone to match bumpers and push just a little, I could have knocked it out.

As you may imagine, I was elated. My new friend the tow truck driver then tried to settle business with me.

“Is $15 too much?” he asked. “I’ll take a check if you don’t have the cash to spare.”

Wow. Can you imagine? He left home and a ball game, used his expensive equipment to pull me around town, and he’s asking me if it’s too much. Granted, I had no idea what a proper fee would be, but I only saw that my trip could continue.

“No, no, I can spare $15. And thanks. Thank you very much.”

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