Lewis: I love small towns

By S. Peter Lewis

BN Columnist

I love small towns.

I got a flat tire last two Tuesdays back at 6:10 in the morning. Felt an odd loud rumbling up in the front right. Thought little of it and continued on until the guttural grinding overpowered the radio, then pulled over. The tire was mashed flat and I scorched my finger when I reached for the rim. Should have pulled over sooner, probably.

Took the tools and the spare out of the trunk and got to work. Tensioned the jack just enough and then began loosening the lug nuts. Had to jump on the handle of the tire iron to free them. One, two, three, four nuts spun off, but the iron wouldn’t fit the fifth nut because the nut was shaped differently. Walked around the car peering at the remaining wheels in the barely light. Same on every wheel. Some kind of anti-theft thing, I guessed. Which if you knew my car you’d be laughing about right now.

So stood there by the side of the road in a cold wafting drizzle scratching my head. It was still too dim out to see well. Waited in the car for the morning to move on to a respectable hour and then called my friend who lives just down the road. A mechanic. “Yup, need a special tool for those,” he said.

“I don’t have it,” I said.

I fished my 24-hour roadside assistance card out of my wallet and dialed the toll-free number. Explained my predicament to a very nice man from Malaysia, whose name was something like Bhluoujhowuoruojfioudi.

“Ah, yes, you need a berry special tool fordat, sir,” he said. He asked me for my cell number in case he needed to call me back.

“I have no idea,” I said. “I never call myself and I can’t check while I’m talking to you.” He told me to hold on patiently. I held on patiently. When he returned he said, “I am beddy soddy, sir, but vee seem to have no proviters in your adea.”

I told him, yeah, I live kinda out in the woods.

“Beddy goot, sir, is there anyting else I can do for you tooday?”

While I was talking to my new Asian friend, I heard clunks and clanks outside the car and looked out. There was my mechanic neighbor who I hadn’t woken up by calling too early, fiercely working some vice grips on my recalcitrant lug. “I almost had it,” he said, the same way a man might say it if a big trout broke off just shy of the gunwale. We commiserated for a couple of minutes and I thanked him for trying and he said sure and then he drove off to take his kids to school. I waved at them and they waved back.

I put the four nuts back on and pulled the car across the road and into the firehouse parking lot. Drove slow so as not to reheat the rim.

While I waited for my wife to pick me up I called my office and told them why I’d be late. “I don’t seem to have the right tool,” I said, which elicited the predictable snarky reply and a subsequent laughing fit that degraded into a hacking cough.

My smiling wife drove in shortly after that and when we got home I called the garage where we get our cars worked on and the owner, Dale, answered on the second ring.

“How you doin?” he asked.

“Oh, fine,” I said.

“Probably not, or you wouldn’t be calling me,” he said.

We talked briefly and worked out a friendly plan and he gave me the phone number of a guy, who I didn’t know who tows cars right there in our area. I called the guy and said I needed a tow and he said where’s the car and I told him. He said not to worry about paying him, that he’d just leave a bill for me at Dale’s.

Took my wife’s car to work and stashed the key to the busted car under the visor when I drove by. Left the car unlocked with valuables in the trunk. Also left a note on the dash saying who I was and that the car was not abandoned and that I was friends with the fire chief, just in case.

Picked up the car two nights later, long after business hours. The bill for new tires, replacement lug nuts, associated labor and the towing charges just lying there on the seat. Dropped a check in Dale’s key slot.

I love our small town. Thanks, everybody.

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