GUEST COLUMN: roadside assistance

I’ve found the most exhilarating part of driving, so far, has been the constant fear the engine is going to eject right through the front bumper at any moment. 

I finally passed my driving test about a month ago, and was lucky enough to have a family friend who could sell me his truck on the cheap. 

Shockingly, this alarmingly inexpensive 2009 Ford Ranger is a piece of junk. What I suspect to be a transmission issue has left me in constant fear of stalling out completely in an incredibly dangerous place.

Those fears materialized, as I was exiting the highway into Kent.

I was three cars deep into a red light off the exit from 76 East, and I felt the car shift forward. I turned down the radio, no sound from the engine. 

The red light shifts to green, I tap the gas, nothing happens. The pedal hits the floor, still nothing. I push down on the breaks, to see if something happens, and they don’t budge.

I turned on my hazards, shifted to park, and dropped my head back in defeat. 

I rolled down the window to wave on cars behind me and called the family friend who sold me the truck. He didn’t offer much help, just advising me to call a tow truck and hold tight till he got there.

As I was hanging up the phone, an orange pickup drove up and parked between me and the intersection. 

“My name’s Chris,” he said, holding his and out. I told him my name and he asked me if I needed a push. 

He instructed me to put it in neutral and turn the wheel as far right as possible as he walked to the back of the car. I followed orders, despite a small traffic buildup behind me. 

“They can wait,” Chris yelled, “You’re the one who’s got the problem.”

Once we were off the exit ramp, Chris came back up to the window. 

“So, what’s the plan?” he asked. The bewildered look in my eyes said to him better than I could that I did not have a plan — at least not a good one. 

“Do you think it might start working again?” Chris asked. I shrugged, telling him it doesn’t hurt to try.

He told me to hold the brake down and try turning the key. The engine turned, even though I didn’t recall turning the car off, and the old Ford came back to life. 

I threw it in reverse and let the brake go, and it lurched back. When I put it in drive, the piece of junk threw me forward, almost into Chris’ truck.

“I don’t care if you hit mine,” he said, “I’m just glad to see you’re moving!”

I thanked him, from the moment he approached my car to the moment he got back in his. He told me he pulled over because he felt for me. 

“I watched you waving people by, gawking at you as they drive on,” Chris said. “I just got tired of it, I figured I could at least help you get off the road.”

I’m not sure if he realized, or even thought about it, but the ten minutes he spent getting me moving changed my whole night. If not for him, I’d have spent an hour waiting for a tow, paid more money than I currently have to get it back, and spent days without a car.

While I still need to get it fixed, I got back on the road and home safe.

Before I headed into town, we both pulled into the Speedway off the gas station. After he got gas Chris waited by the exit to make sure my car started back up OK, waving as we both pulled out in opposite directions.