What can be worse than blowing a tire on a dark stretch of interstate at 2 A.M.?
Plenty can, but to two weary women traveling alone with no civilization in sight, over 100 miles away from completing our 1,480-mile round-trip journey, the thump-thump-thump of shredded tread was not a welcome sound.
As I slowed the car to a crawl, I scolded myself for shrugging off every past opportunity to learn how to change a tire. Every news article I’d read about distracted drivers plowing into disabled vehicles parked on the shoulder flashed through my mind.
My choice was clear to me. I ignored everything my husband and automotive-loving son had told me about the hazards of driving on tire rims, and I forced the hobbling car several miles onward to the next exit. Risking damage to my vehicle seemed smarter than risking our lives.
My friend Bambi agreed.
We stopped at a closed gas station—the only building around--under what must have been one of three lights in the entire county, judging from the darkness surrounding us. After scanning the parking lot perimeter for boogey men and locking my car door, I fished my AAA card from my purse, but before I could dial roadside assistance, Bambi insisted we could handle the situation ourselves.
She’d apparently paid attention when her husband taught her how to change a flat.
At her urging, we unloaded our luggage from the hatch, dragged out the spare tire and tools, jacked the car up (after repeated attempts), and set to work loosening lug nuts--or at least trying to. Making little progress, we tugged at, kicked, and even stood on the tool designed to loosen them. Do car manufacturer weld lug nuts on?
After a significant struggle and working up a sweat, we wrestled the lug nuts and hubcaps off only to discover the tire refused to separate from the car. No matter how we pulled or pushed, it wouldn’t budge.
I learned a new law of the universe that night: defeat gains strength when exhaustion holds its hand.
Thanking God for cell reception in this remote location (and praising myself for having renewed my AAA subscription), I finally dialed for help. A cheerful representative who apparently doesn’t need to sleep at night promised help would arrive, but not for another hour, at least. I craved my bed. With hope as deflated as my demolished tire, I answered her many questions to arrange a dispatch, but before we completed the call, a beat-up red pickup truck rolled out of the darkness and parked beside us. Before I could stop her, Bambi accepted the unkempt driver’s offer to help. My expression must have revealed my concern because she handed me the tire iron. A weapon of defense?
Sharing my apprehension, the AAA rep promised to remain on the line until she knew we were safe. Predicting tomorrow’s headline, “Women Slain at Rural Gas Station,” I immediately relayed this man’s physical and vehicle descriptions to her. If Bambi and I died that night, at least police would have a good lead in finding the murderer, who fetched a hammer from the bed of his truck. My heart raced, and I clenched the tire iron tighter, monitoring his every move.
While I considered where to aim to deliver the most effective blow when he attacked, he slid under the car and set to work. Before I blinked twice, he’d knocked the tire loose and installed the spare. Bambi had reloaded several pieces of luggage before I reminded my tongue to say, “Thank you.”
Turns out the man I’d deemed a serial killer worked as the property’s night security. My overactive imagination, a symptom plaguing writers, had assessed this man’s character and plugged him into an unsavory category based upon his physical appearance alone. Of course, his lack of uniform assisted my prejudice, yet as I looked into our rescuer’s eyes for the first time, I stood convicted of misjudging a man with a good heart.
Of course safety is a concern in today’s society, but how many kind souls do I shun with suspicion? How many friendly folks do I mistake for having ill intentions? How many angels in disguise do I fail to entertain because of fear?
If Jesus had rolled up in disheveled attire driving that red jalopy, would I have treated him with the same trepidation?
Having a healthy dose of caution is wise, but having faith feels better. I must remember good people come dressed in every style. They hail from every walk of life. They sometimes roll out of darkness to come to our rescue.
How do you balance trust and fear? Have you ever misjudged someone based upon a faulty first impression? Have you received blessings from an unlikely source? Let’s chat about it below!