Saturday, August 31, 2013

George, the Guardian Angel

If you have lost your faith in humanity and the goodness of people, read this story. It happened today to me and my family, and I'm still shaking my head in awe.

Today, my wife (Jessica) and my 3 1/2 year old daughter (Maya) were headed up to Silver Lake, NH -- somewhere in the middle of the state. We chose a route to avoid traffic, and found ourselves cruising along 495 North sometime around 2pm about 70 miles from home. All of a sudden, I noticed white smoke blanketing the highway behind us. I assumed it was another car, but Jess quickly pointed out that it was coming from our 2007 Acura TL. I had no idea what was going on, but it was clear that we needed to pull over right away. 

I quickly turned on the hazard lights, and headed into the breakdown lane. The traffic was whizzing by us, and I knew it wasn't safe to get out on the highway. After a quick discussion, we decided to try to make it to the next exit about a mile up the highway.

We made it to the next exit, and we didn't see much more white smoke coming from the car. However,
as we got off the highway, there was traffic on Route 125. Sitting in traffic, all of a sudden white smoke starting pouring out of the back of the car again. And then the car stopped responding as I stepped on the gas pedal. Each time I stepped on the gas, the car barely responded. Inexplicably, the car lurched forward several times. I knew we were in serious trouble.

We made it another half mile down the road where we saw a bunch of car dealerships and a Monro Muffler. At the next intersection, I tried to turn left into the Monro, but the car wouldn't move forward. We were stuck in the middle of a busy intersection. So I put the car in Park, and then back into Drive several times, and somehow I was able to get just enough momentum to get into the parking lot. As soon as I could, I got out of the car and saw that transmission fluid was gushing out of the engine. It was immediately clear that the car needed major service. We weren't going anywhere. 

Question: What's worse than breaking down in the middle of nowhere? 
Answer: Breaking down in the middle of nowhere on Labor Day weekend.

As I got out of the car at Monro Muffler, I noticed a man standing in front of the building. It turns out he was waiting for his car to get out of the shop. He saw my dilemma and we started chatting. He got down under the car with me, and we both saw that my car was in serious need of repair. I went into the Monro shop, and the man behind the counter made it very clear that there was no way he could look at the car any time soon. We were stuck in Plaistow, NH.

It was clear that we were going to need a rental car, so I immediately started looking for a solution. We were in luck! There was a Hertz rental car next door! But it had closed at noon. So I used my phone to find several places nearby, but they were all closed as well. The man who was standing outside Monro called a few places on his phone, but every single place was closed (he found one place 30 miles away that was open -- but we wouldn't be able to get there before they closed at 3pm).

After some more discussion, the man told me that he lived nearby, and he gave me his phone number in case I needed help. As he left he reiterated: "Listen: if you can't find a solution, you could always borrow my car. I don't need it this weekend because I'm driving my truck." I thanked him and told him that I appreciated his offer. At the time, I thought we would find a solution.

Fast forward 45 minutes: I called every single rental car place in the area and couldn't find a car. I also called every U-Haul, Penske, and Home Depot to see if we could find any kind of vehicle. But this was Labor Day (moving) weekend, and every car, truck, and van were rented. I considered trying to get a cab to the Manchester airport (45 minutes away) but I didn't want to leave my family stranded. Heck, I even considered buying a car at one of the places across the street.

I looked at Jess and Maya sitting there idly on the grass next to Monro, and I made a decision. I believe in the goodness of people, paying it forward, and karma. The universe was telling me something. 

I called George on his cell phone and said "George, I don't know if you're my guardian angel or just an amazing person, but we're completely stranded. I'll take you up on your offer to borrow your car for the weekend." Five minutes later, George showed back up at the Monro service center. I jumped in the car with this stranger, and we drove back to his house a mile down the road. We exchanged basic contact information, and he handed me the keys to his Toyota Corolla. With tears in my eyes, I pulled away from this wonderful man's house. I'll never forget the way I felt -- thankful for the goodness of people, the kindness of strangers, the amazing story I'll recant for years.

I'm now sitting 80 miles north of where we broke down -- at Silver Lake, NH. A few minutes ago, George and I exchanged text messages and he reminded me to enjoy myself. George's car is in the driveway and the rain is falling steadily in the darkness. In the next room over, I hear Maya and Jess playing together safe and sound, sheltered from the darkness and the rain.  All because a complete stranger made the choice to help a young family in need. All because someone trusted a random person who desperately needed assistance.

All because of a guardian angel named George.


Anonymous said...

Teary. Pay it forward.

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