Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Day I Almost Lost My Car…

The temperature was high, and I’d just finished an Open House on a mobile home.  Sometimes, I’d forget to turn off the a/c and the radio when I left the car, and I’d also forget that my poor 12-year-old 225,000-mile vehicle would fail to start under these conditions.  That was how I ended up calling for a tow-truck to take me from my Open House to my own home half a mile away.

I wasn’t too happy with the guy who showed up.  He was about 6’2”, burly, and Friendly (note the capital “f”).  Despite the fact that I was annoyed with my vehicle’s poor performance, in addition to my financial worries, this 40-something man was determined to become my best friend in the next 15 minutes. He took his time, working slowly and methodically and kept asking me questions about myself.  Once he had the car on his flatbed, with me sitting prisoner beside him in his cab, he told me all about himself, letting me know that in addition to this part-time weekend job as a tow-truck driver he also had a white-collar job with a large corporation during the week.  I was instantly angered by this.  In an economic climate when many of my friends couldn’t find jobs and were faced with losing their homes, this guy was hogging two jobs!

He s-l-o-w-l-y drove to my mobile home park.  He s-l-o-w-l-y drove up the hill to my unit.  I sucked it up and kept my mouth shut.

In front of my home, I waited patiently to have my car moved into the driveway so I could say goodbye to this fellow, who s-l-o-w-l-y began the process of dismounting my car.  Unfortunately, when he began to raise the bed (slowly) in order to bring out the ramp, the tow chains holding my car in place dropped off with a loud clang, and my little 2-door RAV 4 began to slide off the truck, hitting its muffler on the back edge of the truck bed, bouncing, and began rolling down the hill at about 5 m.p.h.

My first impulse was to run toward it to stop it, but I immediately realized that would be like trying to patch the Titanic.  I watched as it began to roll down the hill, my life flashing before my eyes.  Without a car, I couldn’t work or support myself.  And, what if it rolled all the way down the hill and took out the front of Ben's home?  Or, what about my almost-lame obese neighbor who was trying to get a closer look and didn’t seem to realize it was rolling in her direction?

The tow-truck driver lumbered after my car.  I was hopeful.  Just a week ago when I’d been in a hurry delivering signs and fliers, I’d left my car in gear when I got out on a flat surface, and it had started rolling backward.  I ran behind it, opened the door, and then ran a little further behind it so I could jump into the seat at the appropriate time.   I was looking at this fellow and thinking, “He's a man… he knows what he’s doing,” and watched as he got the door open, only…. he was half-lying on the seat of my car and his lower legs were being dragged along the pavement.  But, he cocked the wheel and ran my car into the wall (and the dent is only a few inches long).

I was grateful. 

But when he got up, he began clutching his legs and telling me that he had hurt himself.  Stupid me, even though I saw the car dragging him, it all happened so fast I thought he was doing everything on purpose!  His pants were not ripped at all, but I realized he probably had soft-tissue damage, something I suffered from once that takes years to heal.  I felt bad for him, and asked him if I should call 911, and with a hangdog look, he said, “No.”  I offered to get some ice to put on his legs, but he thanked me for my kindness and declined.

He then began the slow process of retrieving my car, as a gaggle of nosey neighbors watched for further excitement.  I was nervous, because I was not sure whether it had been operator error or a mechanical failure, and if there was something wrong with the flat bed, wouldn’t this just happen again?  But, there was really nothing else I could do except let him fix the problem.  So, he took a few moments to get his pain under control, and then went back to work, re-loading the car on the flat bed so he could get it near my driveway, and then un-loading it again and getting it safely into my carport.

Once it was over, I couldn’t wait to get rid of him.  He followed me to my car and stood looking at me, and I couldn’t believe the words that came out of his mouth: “Can I have a hug?”  I wanted to smack him.  This man had almost ruined my economic security, and he wanted ME to hug HIM?  But I also realized that the 6’2” 250+ pound man I was looking at was no more than a 3-year-old in a 40-something’s body.  So, I gave him the hug --- a side hug, of course --- then sent him on his way as I ran to the phone to make a full accident report.

(c) Elena E. Smith, 2010