It was pouring out and I was partly blocking the onramp to a parking facility in a car that had suddenly died. Could there BE anything more annoying to other drivers? Dozens had already passed me, shaking their fists.
One shouted “For God’s sake, open your hood so people will know!” so I quick jumped out in the rain and opened it. Another few dozen passed, also glowering, before somebody else yelled, “Close your hood, idiot! Rain hurts the engine!” So I climbed out again and closed it.
Then a kind-faced employee of the parking facility approached. Though we had no common language, he clucked sympathetically, went away for five minutes, then returned through the downpour with an armful of traffic cones, which he set around my car like so many party hats.
Finally, some 40 minutes after I had placed the call to AAA, the man in the tow truck arrived. But even for him the car wouldn’t start.
“Fuel pump,” he mumbled, and began lashing it to his rig, into whose mile-high cab I hoisted myself as bidden, settling gratefully into the passenger seat.
As we followed the gentle dips and hills that would bring us to my service station, we lapsed into conversational mode. I asked him what people were like when he came to save them. Were they grateful? Resigned? Grouchy as all get-out?
“Most people are nice,” he smiled, “though you also get the other kind. There was a woman I was sent to help once. She had a $100,000 car, and probably $8,000 worth of furs on her back. And there she was on her phone when I pulled up, just screaming at somebody, probably her poor husband.”
“Did she get nicer when she saw you?”
“Nah. She was just mad. It was amazing though. Right on the same block was this poorly dressed man going into a store with cans and bottles he had just picked out of some trash cans. He went in to redeem them and came out again with a pack of smokes and a smile on his face like it was Christmas morning! And I thought to myself, ‘What a contrast!’ Because you know, you can live like the woman who has everything and is all the time griping, or you can live like this guy, happy with whatever comes his way. It just struck me, you know?”
“I do know.”
We rode in silence a while.
“I feel much calmer than I did even ten minutes ago,” I said, surprising even myself. “I think you must have that effect on your ‘clients.'”
“I don’t know about THAT,” he said, “but I’ll tell you what I always say to people when they’re so upset about their cars. I say ‘Listen, your day starts now.’ Meaning ‘Begin again here’. Meaning, ‘Don’t look back at what went wrong.’”
“That reminds me of something I read in a book about first responders,” I answered. “The author wrote about a paramedic friend who, when he approaches the victim at the scene of an accident, says this one thing always. Before doing anything else, he quietly tells the person, ‘It’s OK! The worst is over.’ There’s just something so comforting in those words.”
“I hear that,” said the tow truck driver.
I think again of the two phrases, “The worst is over” and “Your day starts now,” and find them both to be good and hopeful sentiments at the start of this new year.