Help On Highway Renews Faith In Kindness Of Strangers

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It was a dark and stormy night.

I was stranded somewhere on the Beeline with a blown-out tire. The pounding rain and frequent flashes of lightning were freaking me out. Let's see. Call AAA. No, first turn on the hazard lights. Thank God for the cell phone, which I'd had just two months. I found the AAA card and punched in the Phoenix number. To my relief, it went through. That doesn't happen in a lot of places along the Beeline. The dispatcher answered.

"Hi, uh, I just had a blowout on the Beeline," I said. "What? Oh, Highway 87. Where am I? I don't know, maybe halfway between Scottsdale and Payson. Exact location? I DON'T KNOW! I wasn't watching the mile markers or landmarks. It's raining like crazy. Well, I'm about 40 minutes from North Scottsdale, and I'm not to Sunflower yet where the construction is. Northbound. And the southbound lanes are close by."

My voice was strained and shrill.

"You'll send someone out from Payson? Please tell him to hurry. I'm alone and I'm elderly, and uh, I'm scared."

I gave him my name and member number, then hung up. I couldn't believe I'd said that. Elderly? Scared? Well, maybe it would help speed things along.

I knew it would be an hour or longer, so I took a deep breath and tried to relax. All the doors were locked. Headlights, hazards, inside light were on. This had never happened to me before. I've traveled thousands of miles alone, but I'm careful. I keep the car in good condition. The tires are almost new and they aren't Firestones. Guess the law of averages just caught up with me. Half an hour dragged by.

Suddenly, headlights in the rearview mirror broke my reverie. The highway patrol! An officer in a yellow slicker approached my window. She offered to change the tire and went back for her jack. I got out to help. Her jack didn't work, so we looked for mine. Locating and extricating it, along with the spare, took a while, since I was clueless, but we laughed and chatted our way through the process.

Finished at last, she sped away. I got in my car, stripped off my waterlogged jacket, and turned on the ignition. The battery was dead. Stunned, I shouted at the disappearing tail lights, "Come back, come back!"

I'd left the lights on all that time without the engine running. But I hadn't canceled the AAA truck yet. Fighting panic, I called the dispatcher again, and explained my predicament. Soon I would have no lights at all, I said. How would the driver ever find me? Reluctantly, I ended the call.

I turned off the inside light. The blackness and the storm closed around me like a shroud. I felt alone and vulnerable, like a child huddled under the covers in a darkened room, waiting for the monsters under the bed to attack. So, what was the worst that could happen? I'd sit here and shiver all night, which I guessed I could handle.

I made a mental list of items for an emergency kit. I'd had the phone, tools, spare and jack. But no flashlight, blanket, food, water, battery cables or flares. A gun, maybe? No way.

The headlights went out. I tried the inside light again. It still worked, but for how long? An hour had passed since the officer left. I stared glumly at the cars whizzing by. Then, there he was. The AAA driver said he had barely seen the dim glow inside the car. I almost hugged him. In minutes, I was ready to roll. "Watch out for the fog," he cautioned.

Soon I was home. I've never been more grateful for the simple, basic things of life. Like a warm fire and shelter from the elements. And most of all, the kindness of strangers just doing their jobs on a dark and stormy night.

Contact Vivian Taylor online at mailto:viv@cybertrails.com #or call 474-1386.

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