A rainbow coalition road crew saved the day for me, could do the same for America.
Man, oh man. How I wish President Trump and Patrick Crusius had been riding with me last Friday.
- Said no one, ever.
Because, without an ounce of facetiousness, sarcasm or snark, I truly do wish the president and the man who killed 22 people in El Paso had been hanging with me when my truck broke down in Durham.
As I was heading out to highway 15-501 on a recent Friday afternoon, a huge tanker that had just dropped off gas at Costco pulled up to the intersection and stopped, blocking my path.
Before I could start cussing and ask the driver what the #$%^&@* he was doing, he leaped from the big rig, ran around the front of his truck and came up to my driver’s side door.
“Hey, man,” he informed me, “you’ve got a flat.”
Sure enough, I’d been obliviously tooling along, grooving to Otis Redding singing These Arms of Mine, with my left rear tire as flat as day-old beer.
I mean, I was on the rim, Jim.
I thanked him, limped up to the gas station half a mile away and asked the attendant for a bag of pork skins and change for the air pump. He gave it to me, but warned “I don’t think it’s working. Here’s a number to call if it takes your money,” he said.
Forewarned and disgusted, my tire still busted, I eschewed the faulty air pump and spied the service station across the street. I dashed – if a truck on a flat can be said to dash – across Guess Road and pulled into the RDU Car Care center.
The mechanic there was just sitting down to eat, so I apologized for interrupting and urged him to finish his meal.
He could finish his meal any time, he assured me with an actual smile. “What’s your problem?”
I told him, but when he inflated the tire, the air seeped out only slightly less quickly than he’d put it in.
The tire was shot, he told me, noting a gash in the sidewall. He added, though, “Wait a minute. I think we’ve got one of those in the back.”
He then went into the back, climbed a ladder and proceeded to toss down or push aside 20 or so tires before finding one that fit Otis – which also happens to be the name of my truck.
The tire was perfect, so he went in and talked with the shop’s owner. He emerged a minute later and offered to put it on for less than half of what the tire and the job were worth.
Within minutes I, like Willie Nelson, was on the road again.
Happens everyday, right, people getting flats and Good Sams rushing to help?
Sure it does, but this is why I wish the president and the hate-filled domestic terrorist had been riding with me: they would have seen Americans of all hues and faiths rallying to help a soul in need - me.
I'm not going to say President Trump is responsible for the terror Crusius wreaked in El Paso, but you've got to admit: both seem to prefer a monochromatic vision of America.
Unfortunately for them and anyone else who prefers that unattainable reality, the road crew that helped me get back on the road represented a rainbow coalition of auto angels:
• The tanker driver who blocked my path and leaped from his truck to alert me to the flat was black.
• The cashier at the store who saved me the trouble of filling up the tire temporarily was Latino: had I unwittingly pumped in two minutes’ worth of air, I’d have gotten onto the highway and possibly had a blow out at 55mph, endangering everybody.
More disastrously, I would have had just enough air to drive past RDU Car Care.
• The mechanic at RDU, who interrupted his meal and scrounged up a tire, was white.
• The owner of RDU, who provided the tire and service at such a bargain price, was a Hindu from India.
None of this occurred to me until later. Oh, it immediately struck me that each of these men had gone beyond what was expected, but the fact that they represented four distinct parts of America didn’t.
Remember how, in Easy Rider, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper went Harleying cross country to find “the real America”?
Spoiler alert for anyone who hasn't seen the movie: their search didn't end well and they never found it.
I found it - not a utopia, but an America where we all can live and work together, help out each other - and only had to drive eight miles.
That’s the America I want the president to see, the one Crusius will never see, could never see.
Say, do you reckon that if he'd caught a flat on that 10-hour drive from Dallas to El Paso to commit murder and a palette of people like the ones who stopped and helped me had stopped to help him, that maybe, just maybe -
Naaaah, wouldn't have made a difference.
Anyone with that much hate would've been unmoved by the kindness of strangers who didn't look like him.