Barry Saunders

He did more than change my tire. He restored my faith – Saunders

You know that week your humble serpent spent at Bible college back when he thought a voice was calling unto him to go out and spread the Word?

Studying the good figure of the registrar’s assistant soon became more important than studying the Good Book, which is what let me know that that voice wasn’t from where I thought it was.

Even without Bible college, though, I’d know if there was an angel named Todd, wouldn’t I?

An angel that goes by that name saved me Friday, just as surely as if he’d plucked me from the roiled waters of the Pee Dee River or the fiery furnace of the Rockingham Iron Foundry, where I swear it gets 200 degrees.

The angel – or man, symbol, whatever you wish to call him – delivered me from despair Friday, and it all started with a flat tire.

While tooling down U.S. 70 at 65 – make that 55 – mph en route to work, my right rear tire blew out. I lost control of the truck briefly but was able to steer it about five feet off the highway and onto the edge of a long, winding, private driveway that led, presumably, to someone’s house. My immediate fear was “What’s this property owner going to think when he pulls up and sees my big, black truck in his driveway?”

The insurance company promised to send roadside assistance to change the flat, but while I was on the phone, a passing motorist pulled up and asked if I needed help.

Thanks, but they’re sending somebody now, I told him confidently.

He took off, and within 15 minutes, the roadside assistance man arrived. He, remarkably, didn’t have the right tools to even take off the tire and finally gave up after about 30 minutes. “I can’t do nothin’ for you, man,” he said and zoomed off in his Toyota Camry, leaving me cursing and calling him everything but a Reuben sandwich. (Under my breath, of course.)

Even more remarkably than the roadside assistance guy not having the right tools to assist me, the same dude who’d stopped the first time pulled up again and asked if I needed help. After being told what happened, he said he had the right tools at home. He drove away and came back 10 minutes later. My lug nuts, unfortunately, were larger than I’d told him, so he had to go back home and get a bigger lug nut wrench.

I felt like a big lug nut.

He came back, adjusted the jack, got down on the wet ground and changed my tire so fast I almost thought we were on pit row at the old N.C. Motor Speedway.

He bade me adieu and seemed offended -–no, I mean really offended – when I offered him money for his help.

“I didn’t do it for that,” he said.

He packed up his tools and drove away, as did I. When Todd – he told me his last name but I won’t use it because he drove off before I was able to ask his permission – drove off in his pickup, he probably thought he’d merely helped put some hapless, stranded motorist back on the road.

What he’d done, though, was taken me off the road – of despair.

That morning as I drove to work, I was angry and on the verge of being consumed with despair because I’d just listened to the tape of Rakeyia Scott in Charlotte pleading – futilely, it turned out – with cops not to kill her husband, Keith Scott, and imagining all the ways that situation could have, should have ended without that man lying dead.

As I usually do when I feel all is lost, I put in my Stevie Wonder CD and listened to him sing “Love’s In Need of Love Today.” That soothing song is usually a palliative, but it wasn’t that morning. I was still one angry individual driving down that highway.

That’s when – KABLOOEY! – the tire exploded, sent me off the road and gave me something more immediate to worry about than the sorry state of the world.

Just what I need, I thought facetiously while maneuvering the car off the road.

Turn out it was just what I needed. Watching this stranger inconveniencing himself and laboring to fix my truck’s tire accomplished what neither prayer nor Stevie could. Despite what seem like copious amounts of evidence to the contrary that invade our living rooms each night via TV and newspapers, perhaps the world is not inhabited solely by selfish misanthropes.

As Todd got ready to pull off, I said “Well, let me at least give you a copy of my book.” I grabbed one from the back of the truck and signed it “To Todd.”

Immediately after giving it to him, I wondered if that was a mistake.

What if he sees who I am, I thought, and goes, “You mean I stopped and helped that #$%@&*?”