March 6, 2001 was a bright and blustery day. While driving down Hwy 316 to work, my radio died in the middle of a song. As I stared at it in confusion, the whole car went whoooooooomp uhhhh waaaaahhhhhh. I steered over to the shoulder of the road and rolled to a stop, right next to mile marker 7 outside of Bethlehem, Georgia. With my heart rate rising, I tried to crank it–nothing. Turned off the dead radio then tried to crank it. Nothing. Adjusted my rear view mirror then tried to crank it. Nothing. Damn it. Took key out, looked at it, put it back in. Grrrrr. I popped the hood, propped it up in a stiff wind then inspected the engine. Yep, the engine was still there. (That was the extent of my mechanical diagnostic skills.)
It was freezing out there, so I sat on the passenger side away from the cars whizzing by me and stared at my shiny new cell phone. I was alone (not “on my own” but ALONE) in the cold cruel world. Who to call? My daddy was two hours away, my brother lived closer but was at work. My husband was now my ex-husband and my guy friends…well, most of them knew less about cars than I did. I was just about to walk down the highway to the gas station over the next hill when I saw a car slowing to pull in behind mine. The next few moments are lost in a blur of relief and babbling. Someone was there to help! I was saved! By the time he stuck his head under the hood and leaned over to wiggle wires, I had calmed down enough to have my first cogent thought about the man who would one day be my husband: ”Dang…nice butt!”
ACK! What was I THINKING?? This man was a good Samaritan helping out a damsel in distress–he was probably someone’s dad or husband or an off-duty cop or something. (In my own defense, he did have a spectacular skier’s butt.) His head was still buried under the hood, so I checked his left hand for a wedding ring. There wasn’t one. Okey doke! I gave him the once over. Lots of cute things. Tee hee.
He moved his car around to face mine and got the jumper cables set up. He said, “So, are you a law student?” and pointed to the sticker in the back window of my car.
“Oh, no. My ex-husband.”
“Ah. I just asked because I teach at the business school, right by the law school. Thought I might have seen you around.” And so our conversation began.
He got my car started. Since we were both headed in the same direction anyway, he offered to stay behind me in case it died again. Once our convoy was heading back down the highway, I got my head together enough to realize that he was a really nice guy and this might be my lucky day. I didn’t want him to see me preening, though, so I slid my hand across to my purse, extracted a lipstick and applied it surreptitiously without looking in the rearview mirror. Sneaky minx.
The car stalled again just outside of Athens. He stopped and jumped me…I mean jumped it off again. He suggested I drive straight to the battery store and get them to check it. He followed me there. That didn’t work, so I drove to the mechanic and left my car there to get the alternator replaced. He followed me again. They needed to keep the car for a few hours and I had a class to teach that afternoon. My good Samaritan offered to drop me at work and like a total blooming idiot who had never seen a single episode of Nancy Grace, I hopped right in. That’s when it hit me exactly how “on my own” I was–I had gotten in the car with a total stranger and no one knew where I was. I kept my hand on the door handle and planned to tuck and roll out the door if he tried anything crazy and was going under 20mph. He didn’t. He delivered me right to the front door and we exchanged business cards.
As luck would have it, my boss was walking by the entrance as I stepped from the car at 11am. He smiled and said, “Glad you showed up to work, Kiddo!” I told him about my morning adventures then I showed him the name on the business card. ”Why does this name sound so familiar to me?” I asked. As a fan of DC Comics, he took one look and guffawed. ”You just got rescued by a superhero–Robin!” Yes, my good Samaritan’s real name was the same as Batman’s sidekick.
That night, in my gratitude journal, I wrote:
- Zoe smells so good when she is wrapped up in a warm towel after a bath
- my new blue shirt
- when my car died on 316, I made a new friend when Richard stopped to help
- I needed help with a jump and I got an aerospace engineer with a PhD in finance and Virginia Cavalier manners
- teaching 20 people in a fun class
- I can make it