Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Chicken Soup for the Soul

Highway Hero

By Carol A. Price-Lopata


During my third year as a speaker, giving seminars all

over the country, I was driving into Wheeling, West

Virginia, to teach a class on self-esteem to 150 women.


My background includes being raised by a mother and

grandmother who took great pains to teach me that families

take care of one another no matter what. I knew I could

always count on them when I was in trouble, and they knew

they could do the same.


I was driving faster than I should have been because I

desperately wanted to make it to Wheeling before the severe

rains that had been predicted began to fall.


As I saw the sign telling me Wheeling was eight miles

away, I speeded up even a bit more, even though a few

raindrops had just begun to fall.


With no warning, I heard a boom - not too loud, but

loud enough to know it wasn’t a good sound. When I turned

off the radio to further evaluate the sound, it became

clear I had a tire problem: probably a flat. I slowed

down, knowing from high school driver’s education not to

brake hard, but knowing still that I needed to get off the

road for my safety.


On the side of the road, I looked around, saw nothing

but rugged hills, a six-lane highway and very fast traffic.

I locked the door, to be safe, and tried to figure out what

to do. I did not have a cellular phone, as they were not

that common many years ago.


Every story I had ever heard about women having bad

experiences on the side of the road in strange cities ran

through my mind like a movie reel, and I tried to decide if

I would be safer staying with the car or walking to the

next exit. It was beginning to get dark, and I truly was

becoming afraid.


My grandmother taught me as a very little girl that

things work out if you keep your head about you,

and I was  trying very hard to do just that.


At that very moment, a large semi passed very fast on

my left, causing my car to shudder, and I saw that the

directional light was on, indicating he was pulling over in

front of me. I could hear his brakes squeal, as he was

braking fast and hard.


I again thought, ‘Am I safer or in more danger?’ I

could see the truck as it slowly backed up on the shoulder

of the road and decided that to be very safe, I would take

a precaution I had seen in a movie. I took out a pad in my

briefcase and wrote down the name of the trucking company

and the Ohio license number, as they both were visible from

my car. I put the pad with this information under the

driver’s seat just in case!


Even though it was now raining quite hard, the driver

came running back from the truck to my car and said through

my window that I had opened only three inches, that he had

seen the tire blow and would be glad to change it. He

asked for the car keys to get into the trunk; and although

I knew I was about to lose all my safety precautions, it

seemed to be my best choice. I gave him the keys. He

changed the tire and gave me back the keys. I asked him

through the three-inch opening in the window if I could pay

him for his kindness. He said, “We drivers in Ohio believe

in taking care of women in trouble on the highway.”


I then asked him for the name of his boss so I could

send him or her a letter relaying how wonderful he had

been. He laughed a very odd laugh and gave me the name of

his boss, a woman, and his card, which had the name of the

trucking company, the address and the phone number. I

thanked him again, and the now soaking-wet man ran back to

the truck. Gratefully, I went on to Wheeling to present

my seminar.


Upon returning to Florida, I had a T-shirt made for

this man that showed an angel in a truck with the words

printed across the picture, “Highway Hero,” and sent it to

the address on the card.


It came back, addressee unknown.


I called the number on the card and got a recording

saying no such number existed. I called the city newspaper

for that town, asked for the editor, explained the dilemma

and asked that a letter to the editor be placed in the

paper thanking the driver. The editor, who had lived there

all his life, said there was no such company in that city.

He further investigated and called me back and said there

was no such business registered in Ohio.


The editor went one step further. He called the state

motor vehicle bureau to ask about the license and was told

no such plate had ever been issued.


The upshot is that this man, his truck and the company

never existed, the “rescue” never happened and I must have

been dreaming.


But I know I wasn’t.

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