It was cold here Sunday afternoon, with a cold wind blowing. But I’d been cooped up for several days and was getting cabin fever. Squirrelly is a better word. I had to get out. So I drove to Trussville, AL, where I planned to visit a friend. Which I did. I planned to do a little Christmas shopping. Which I did. Very little. I planned on getting a book. Which I did. A Harry Bosch mystery. And I planned to eat out somewhere besides a hamburger joint. Which I did.
Now I know this story is going to sound like deja vu all over again, but I can’t help it. What happened is what happened. Just like I wrote about on March 3, 2013 (A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To . . . Well, You’ll See).
I had planned to eat lunch out, but with all my detours for this and that it turned out to be about 3:30 p.m. and I was starved. And, just so you know, since a late breakfast and early lunch is called a brunch, I decided that a late lunch and early supper should be called a Lupper. Makes sense. Right? So after my little bit of shopping at Books-A-Mil, I drove up to the top of the big hill to Logan’s Roadhouse in Pinnacle Square. It was packed, but I got a little two-seater table pretty quickly. It already had the bucket of peanuts on the table, which I lit into. I ordered sirloin tips with baked potato and salad, and before long I had a nice glass of iced tea, some hot yeast rolls that were to die for, and my salad. I was good to go, since I’d been reading my Harry Bosch mystery while chomping peanuts.
Just so you know, I’m not one of these people who refuse to eat at a restaurant alone. In fact, I enjoy it. I’m alone with just my book, my thoughts, and a good meal cooked and served. Makes me feel like royalty. The people around don’t know me, could care less about knowing me, and so I feel like I’m adrift on my own personal island in a sea of humanity. Nice, huh? It is to me.
So, since it was a space of time set aside to just relax away from technology and any demands, I didn’t notice that time had indeed been slipping by. It was almost dark outside. My waitress, Netty, came by and whispered apologetically that another server had picked up my order by mistake and it would be a few more minutes. She said the manager would be by to see me. I tried to protest, but she wouldn’t hear of it and soon the said manager, Jeremy Yerby, was at my table apologizing for the delay and informing me that I would not be charged for anything but my sirloin tips. I couldn’t understand that because I had also ordered a take-out for Mike.
“That’s not necessary,” I said.
“It is to me,” Mr. Yerby replied.
I was impressed. In my dining-out experience I haven’t seen much lately in the way of customer satisfaction initiative, and this place had it in spades. Not only that, but when my food arrived the sirloin tips, topped with mushrooms and onions, were tender and cooked medium rare, just as I’d asked. The mushrooms were so good I ate them first.
What that little experience did was what every restaurant should strive for. Make the customer want to come back. Soon.
So far my day was going just fine. But it was now dark. And cold. With that cold wind still blowing. It wasn’t snowing, like it was last March, but the weather was a bit on the frigid side. So my happy glow evaporated when I cranked the KIA and the motor was slow turning over. I was even less happy when I pulled out and it started chugging a little. I kept the motor on a higher than average rev so it wouldn’t die on me, and prayed it would make it home. It did pretty good for a minute or two, but on the way down from the heights it got slower and slower.
I kept it revved at the red light, which seemed to mock my prayer to turn, turn, turn, for heaven’s sake. Finally, after I’d turned older and grayer just sitting there, the obstinate device decided to let me through. Halfway into my turn onto the busy Gadsden Hwy, the lights went out and I had just enough compulsion to verrreee sloooowly make the turn into the far lane. All the while a cacophony of angry car horns serenaded me till I coaxed the limping vehicle off the road onto a huge Presbyterian church property. Hell’s bells, it’s not like they couldn’t see I was having a spot of trouble. Lights go out. Car moving like molasses. I mean, I ask you, how many more clues did these clueless bums need?
The church lot had night lights, but it was as empty and shadowed as the highway and mall across the road were full and bright. Cars were flashing by so fast, no one would notice if aliens came down in a mother ship to beam me up. But it wasn’t aliens that made me particularly wary. It was 21st century, very earthy predators.
I called Mike. But we live about 45 minutes out. He was on his way, but that did me little good right then. So I decided, for once in my life, to do the sensible thing. I called the Trussville police and told them my problem. They were very considerate and said they would send an officer to check on me shortly. As good as their word, an officer in a dark SUV soon pulled up and stepped out. I had to look twice. She was a pretty, petite, young woman, and for a moment I thought, well . . . in case of an attack she and I together could put a hurtin’ on some kneecaps. But, there was a gun snugged to her hip and I could bet she’d had to qualify for it. So . . . oh, yes. I’m a true believer in equalizers.
She was Officer Montgomery, and she invited me to sit in her warm vehicle till help arrived. That sounded good till I came close enough to feel the heat radiating out. I had my thick wool coat on, so I told her no thanks. “It’s freezing out there,” she said. “You’ll understand,” I said, “when you get much much older.” She grinned. I immediately liked Officer Montgomery. So I told her another car problem. My driver’s door handle had broken completely just a few hours ago. Cheap plastic fell to pieces. When it rains it pours. Still feeling a little foolish to have called out the troops to hold my hand, I had to let her know I hadn’t always been a cry baby. “A few years ago I would have spit in their eye” (if approached), I said. Seriously she replied, “It’s a different world out there now.”
I hated to keep her from her duties, so I thought hard about who I could call. My friend Dean, whom I had visited earlier that day, had given me her son’s number so she wouldn’t be out of touch again. “I’ll call Derek Cain,” I told her. “He can get here much faster than Mike and you’ll be free to go.” No problem.
But the problem was, I couldn’t see in the low light, even with her holding a flashlight. I had scribbled the number on my puzzle book and wasn’t sure of the prefix. But after one or two aborted tries I got through to Derek. No problem He was on his way.
While we waited, she asked if I had roadside assistance through our insurance company. I got out my insurance card with the teeeeeny tiny little printing on it and tried to make it out. Feeling a little sheepish, I had to admit I couldn’t read it. So she held the card and called out the numbers. But to add humiliation on top of humiliation, the sounds of the busy highway and the connection with the company left me unable to hear anything but every other word the woman said. I finally had to give up and give the phone to the officer, who talked to the agent for me. Then, when she asked me for my zip code, I told her the zip code for Georgia, where I’d lived twenty years ago.
Just as I decided to check myself into a nursing home, here came Derek. And Mike. At the same time. I didn’t want to mention in front of the officer that Mike had got there much sooner than anticipated. While I was introducing Mike to Officer Montgomery, Derek, who had worked with a towing company before, immediately went over to the car, lifted the hood and slapped a battery pack on it. In no time he had it cranked and off the church driveway into the parking lot, then slid it in tail to curb so Mike and I would have no problem getting it out.
“You won’t be driving it out tonight,” he said. “The lights are dimming again.”
In the meantime, Mike had told Officer Montgomery that he didn’t believe we had roadside assistance with our insurance company. But she stuck to her connection with the agent (after one disconnect) till she determined that Mike was right. No assistance. She had tried very hard to get us a towing service. Mike just said we would come back tomorrow and get the car.
Before we left, I walked toward her. “Am I allowed to give a police officer a hug?” I asked. She just grinned that friendly grin and I hugged her, uniform, gun and all. Then Derek’s wide smile showed up and he held out his arms. It was a night for hugging. (I went to church with Derek and his mother Dean before the church closed its doors.)
I mean, hey, guys, can you get anymore Christmassy than this? Good Samaritans galore with smiling faces. Now, THAT’S Christmas. So this year my Good Samaritan Awards go to Trussville’s Officer Montgomery and Clay’s Derek Cain. This year’s Nice Award goes to Service Manager Jeremy Yerby, and server, Netty Lindsey, of Logan’s Roadhouse at the Pinnacle in Trussville.You guys will receive nothing but my undying favor and good wishes, and a shout out that you are all good folks.
P.S. By the way. Last march when my alternator went out, Mike installed a new battery and a new alternator. That’s less than a year, so the company is making it good. Happy ending.