Ever had that sense that things were going just a bit too well?
About the time you get that feeling, you best look over your shoulder because something’s about to knock you upside the head.
I should have expected that on Monday. The first half of the day went remarkably well. We put the final touches on the Garner-Cleveland Record with none of the unexpected bumps in the road that cost you an expensive 10 or 15 minutes when you’re facing a deadline.
The to-do list I had made for myself Sunday night was steadily getting shorter and I was excited to have had such a productive day. Of course, there was a lot left to do at 3:30 when my daughter Pitt called to say she was on her way from Knightdale to Zebulon.
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We had made plans Sunday night to meet at a Zebulon gas station to fill her tank because the fuel was running low. I hadn’t realized how low until, just as I arrived at the gas station, I got another phone call.
“Dad, I ran out of gas.” Oh, Lord. I could feel the day’s productivity slipping out of the truck cabin.
Turns out she had, indeed, run out of gas just a hundred yards short of her exit ramp at N.C. 96.
I wheeled around to go get her off the side of the road along U.S. 264, worried that the heavy afternoon traffic might result in a bad wreck if she was there too long. As I rolled up alongside her, another car was pulling away. Turns out someone had stopped to check on her.
When the car ran out of gas and shut the motor off, it also shut down all the automatic features like the brakes and the power steering. Pitt had tried to pull the car off the road and ended up in a ditch with the driver’s side of the car well below the passenger side.
We went to the house and got a gas can and returned to the car. We got gas in the car. In the meantime more good Samaritans stopped, including a firefighter and a Wake County EMS worker. Then I heard a familiar voice and turned to see my band booster buddy Leroy Faulkner standing there asking if he could help us.
Behind him was another man I didn’t know. Turns out it was Donnie Roache. He is the hero of this story. After we got the gas in the tank, we tried to start the car, but the angle of the car on the hill prevented the gas from getting to the fuel line and to the motor. Donnie, it just so happens, is a tow truck driver and he had just finished a towing job to Raleigh. His flatbed tow-truck sat on the side of the road. He hitched a chain to Pitt’s car and pulled it until it was level. The car started right up and we were able to get back on the highway and to the gas station.
Donnie Roache works in North Dinwiddie, Va., near Petersburg. It would have been awfully easy for him to keep going that late Monday afternoon. But he didn’t. By my count, no less than five people stopped to help me and my daughter in a misty rain on the side of a busy highway as night was starting to fall.
My productivity for the day had tanked, but my spirits were incredibly high. All too often it takes an uncomfortable experience like that for us to realize that there’s a generous, kind spirit in a lot of people. And, fortunately, those people outnumber the mean-spirited ones.