An Open Letter to a Certain New York State Assist Patrol Driver on I-84 East
My wife Mindy and I were driving home from a week-long stay at our special place on Great Sacandaga Lake when it happened.
We had just crossed the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge heading east on I-84 when from out of nowhere, we heard a loud "wop-wop-wop" sound from outside our Hyundai Tucson. Thinking the sound originated from the car in front of us where the dude was driving 45 mph, we moved into the left lane to pass the slowpoke.
As Mindy looked out the passenger side window, she saw the car's driver waving at us, or so we thought. So Mindy waved back while I punched up the mighty four-cylinder engine to 65 with Steely Dan cranked as they were singing, "Is there gas in the car?"
As the guitar riff to "Kid Charlemagne" kicked in, the Tucson began to vibrate, and that same wop-wop-wop sound started up again. Mindy, who was driving, immediately pulled off onto the shoulder.
That dude who we thought was waving at us was attempting to alert us to the fact that our right rear passenger tire had blown. After pulling over on I-84, we immediately called AAA, where the wait time was 15 minutes to get through to an agent.
Mindy, who was driving at the time, looked in her side-view mirror and saw what looked like a tow truck behind a New York State trooper's cruiser about a quarter of a mile down the highway.
Our Tucson was loaded to the top with suitcases, pillows, and blankets, a portable gas grill, etc., which were all on the side of the road, so I had access to the spare tire, which in reality looked like a tire that hadn't grown up yet.
When they finished up, they drove up the highway, and both of them pulled off and parked behind us to find out if we needed assistance. BTW, still no sign of the AAA truck.
The State Trooper, who looked like he was 15, was the first one to approach our car. He was super nice and was concerned for our safety because of the tractor-trailers flying by at 70 mph.
The truck driver's name was Joe, and he worked for the DOT's Highway Emergency Local Patrol (H.E.L.P). We informed him we had already called AAA for help which had STILL not arrived. He then got out of his truck and was all set to change out the blown tire when he asked me if I had the "key?"
"The what?" I said. He told me it was a special tool that Hyundai includes to unlock the lug nuts so some rubber happy thief can't steal your tires. Is that still a thing? We tore the Tucson apart looking for this "tool," but after my litany of expletives, it was nowhere to be found.
Joe then told me he wasn't going anywhere because a couple of weeks back, his truck had a confrontation with a tractor-trailer that couldn't stop in time and ripped up the side of his truck while he was helping someone else out.
After telling me that "feel-good" story, he said he wasn't leaving until he found a way to get the lug nuts off to change our tire. So for the next 45 minutes, as we continued to wait for the AAA truck, Joe was finally able to jury-rig a tool to get the job done. I think I told him if he was a woman, I'd kiss him right on the lips! Was that wrong?
I thanked him a thousand times and offered him a $20 dollar bill which he wouldn't take. He didn't pull out until we were in the car and back on I-84. There are still some thoughtful caring people in this world like Joe. Thank you again, sir!
If you ever get the chance to read this story, Joe, just know that I really didn't really want to kiss you.