The euphoria that I had been feeling from my Yard Sale sign joke had faded away. It was getting downright hot and I was not happy about it. My feet were killing me. My backpack was tearing up my shoulder blades. I was irritated that there had not been a sign telling me how close I was coming to Westport. I had rashes on my love handles that had nothing to do with love. My socks were dirty. I was entertaining the idea of going back down to get my cardboard sign and giving the hitchhiking thing a legitimate shot.
As I came over the crest of the hill, a car was pulled over on my side of the road. The trunk was up and the driver was nowhere to be seen. I picked up my pace and as I approached his spare tire was laying on the ground behind the car.
Now my ability, or inability I should say, to work on cars and machines is legendary. I never took one day of auto shop in school. For years our family mechanic has taken care of our cars when they are in sickness and in health. My basic philosophy when it comes to car care is that someone else smarter than me will take care of it.
But I am not completely and totally ignorant. I can do three basic things regarding car care if I am pressed into action:
- I can change a spare tire.
- I can jump-start a dead battery.
- If I have an hour and a half at my disposal, I can change the oil.
"Hey friend," I said. Already begining to remove the pack from my shoulders as I speak, "Had one come off on ya eh? Need a hand?"
A short, balding man who looks like one of the extra terrorists in any one of the 17 Die Hard movies turns and looks at me. He speaks with the roughened gravelly voice of the Marlbro Man. "Yeah," he says as he down-kicks the ratchet connected to the nuts trying to loosen them up.
Together we make short work of the flat. I loosen the nuts as he starts to raise the jack. He asks me which way I am headed and when I tell him East, he says that when he gets going he will give me a lift. He asks me what I am doing out in the middle of nowhere and I give him the short version of this crossing the country thing I am working on. He doesn't say anything to that but gives me a quick look as if to say, "Why would anybody do this?" then goes back to raising the jack.
We swap out the flat with the spare, twist on the lug nuts and lower the car. We tighten the nuts to completion and the man, who's name I never got by the way, cleared a space for me in his car.
I am just about to sit down when he turns the ignition key to the sound of... nothing.
He laughs to himself and says shaking his head, "This is not my day."
But together we work it out.
He heads over to a mobile home park and I stay with the car. Before he has a chance to knock on a door and ask for help I have flagged down a woman in a big black GMC Truck. I hollar at the man for him to return and we are soon back to tip-top condition. We thank the lady in the truck and I climb into the car and in a flash of speedy imported metal we rush off toward Clatskanie.