It was my worst nightmare. Okay, maybe not my worst nightmare, but definitely right up there. I had always forgone solo journeys for this very reason. Now, my fear had been realized. I was alone, on a remote expanse of road, with a shredded tire and a flat spare. To make my fear complete, my cell phone was dead, the sun was setting, and the temperature was rapidly dropping.
It was all I could do to keep from crumbling into a heap of spineless mush. Surely, any minute, some “Deliverance” type was going to show up and forever alter my attitude towards pork.
I sat in the front seat, numb, my head resting on the steering wheel. This unique crisis management technique was interrupted by what sounded like the rumble of Army tanks. I stepped out of the car and turned towards the commotion, straining to see in the failing glimmer of dusk. An endless border of power lines reflected hints of approaching lights. The discordant crescendo closed in on me.
Suddenly, the cacophony crested a small rise in the road and its source came into view. My racing heart sank. This truly was becoming my worst nightmare. It was not tanks…tanks would have been comforting. It was, in actuality, a group of Hells Angels-like characters, riding big, loud, choppers. I briefly considered diving into the ravine next to the road, but I was sure they had already seen me.
What came to mind next was a Bible verse: “I have not given you a spirit of fear, but a spirit of strength”.
“Okay, Lord, I could use some of that strength right about now.” I actually prayed it out loud…at least I think I did. I took a deep breath and put on my very best “Boy, am I glad to see you” face. Maybe they will just pass on by. Please, please, pass on by. It was absolute, unashamed, wishful thinking. They immediately began to slow, then, pulled up behind the car and stopped. Just be cool. Unfortunately, what came out of my mouth was anything but cool.
“Hey guys, watup?”
Watup? It was an expression never before uttered through my lips. What’s more, I knew what was up; I was stranded by the side of the road. That’s what was up. Why was I asking them?
There were four of them, five if you counted the really big guy as two. They dismounted their mechanical steeds as if it had been choreographed and moved as one large mass towards me. The lead man ran his hand through his long, tangled locks as he approached…then he spit. Going to my safe place, going to my…
“What’s the problem?” he asked.
“My tire blew-out and my spare is flat.”
“Bummer,” he responded. The others gathered around him, looked down at what was left of my tire and shook their heads in unison. “Yep, you ain’t goin’ no place on that tire.”
“Maybe you could send a tow truck out for me at the next town?” I asked.
“Next town ain’t got no tow truck.”
“I see,” I replied. My head reeled. What was I going to do now? What were they going to do?
“It’s got a service station though,” he added, rubbing his chin. “What do you think, guys?” Remarkably, his buddies nodded in agreement with the ambiguous question. “Come on,” he said, “we’ll take you into town.”
“Only thing to do, unless you want to spend the night out here.”
“Well, no I…”
“Let’s go then,” he said, as if the matter were settled. They strapped my spare tire onto the back of one of the bikes. The spokesman motioned for me to climb on behind him. There was no backing out now. With my arms wrapped around this complete stranger and his tangled tresses blowing in my face, we streamed through the night air.
They drove me into town, inflated my spare, and returned me to my useless vehicle. At their insistence, they even put on the spare tire. I offered them money but they refused saying: “We hope someone would do the same for our mom or pop, if they needed help”.
Then, they were gone.
I learned many things that night…judge not, fear not, and keep your spare tire inflated. But the most significant thing I learned was that my "neighbors" do not necessarily live next door. My true neighbors are Samaritans…I met some that night, by the side of the road.
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