We took the ramp coming off the interstate. It was our intended exit, but we would’ve gotten off there anyway, as our car was puffing steam and smoke, running a fever, coughing, and wheezing as if it was barely able to breathe. Our plans had been to meet with some friends for a breakfast, but it looked as if our car was not going to let us be able to keep the appointment. Seemed the end of the trail. Figured it was Car-mageddon.
As we limped into the parking lot of a service station just off the interstate, we didn’t notice at first the vehicle following us that pulled up right beside us. Evidently, a man in a pickup truck saw the smoke signal, and stopped to help.
Before I was barely aware of his presence, he’d already raised the hood, and was poking around at this ‘n that. He said he saw the problem, and was pretty sure he could fix it, pointing to a connection near the water pump that appeared to be made out of a brittle piece of plastic, or perhaps elbow macaroni.
It was shattered, which is evidently where all the coolant had spewed out. There were two of these such parts, giving the system a front and a back door like you’d want to find in any good tavern, much less the cooling system of a Buick. The back door wasn’t compromised yet, but the man said it was not long for this world.
When asked, he offered up an estimate that was specific about his labor plus parts. Said the macaroni parts at an auto parts store would be about seven dollars apiece, but I could get metal ones (less likely to explode under pressure) for about twelve. Since his labor quote was about half the price the dealership might charge just to diagnose the problem, his price sounded more than reasonable, in fact, generous. So we said:
“Yes, please, and use the metal parts.”
We exchanged some information about each other, then called our friends to explain our situation. They offered to come get us.
The man under the hood said to go ahead and have breakfast, and that he should be finished about the time we got back. Soon, a wonderful lady pulled up to get us, and we were off to have a meal with her and some of her good family.
I had a mouthful of eggs and grits when my phone rang. Seems the serpentine belt had cracks in it, and the suggestion was to replace it while he had all the pulleys loose. Evidently serpents shed their skin about every hundred thousand miles or so, so I was not surprised.
The price of the belt sounded fair, and less than half the price the service department of an authorized dealership would likely want for it. Seemed to make good sense, so I “OK’d” that procedure, and put some jelly on my biscuit.
Due to extreme kindness being on the day’s program, I was not allowed to pay for our breakfast. I did try, but a loving young person grabbed the ticket, insisting it was her turn to treat, though I have no memory of it ever needing to be her turn.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed by generosity, I tried to remember the last time I was nice to anybody. Had to think back over quite a bit of history to come up with a thing. Couldn’t put an exact date on it, but I believe all television programming was in black and white back then, and I’m sure to have anticipated a reward for it.
While the unexpected angel of the mechanical realm was under the hood of my wife’s car, he adjusted and fixed a few other things he saw needing attention. But no extra fee was added to our bill. The receipts for parts, including a gallon of antifreeze, were well within the original estimate.
When I pointed out he had forgotten to add the charge for changing out the serpentine belt, he said:
“Oh, no charge for that. I had to be down there, anyway.”
I paid him, and wanting to be fair, threw in what I thought was a reasonable gratuity, since he was providing significant value-added service. He looked surprised, and said I’d paid too much. Told him if there was any money left he didn’t need, I’m sure he’d know somebody who did.
We were soon on our way, car running fine, grateful for a chance to have met…
Be nice to somebody out there today–it just might be him. Oh, and rock on chilluns, rock on!