A New Perspective from the Cab of a Tow Truck

January 18, 2015

The other day I had a flat tire. The night before I had run over a good-sized rock that must have slowly deflated my tire overnight. So the next morning, I went out to the car and discovered the flat.

As luck would have it, both my husband and my son had already left for work and school so I was on my own to solve the problem.

And these new cars don't have spares in the trunk. (Not that I would have been able to change the tire anyway...) Good thing I had a service program in place. I called for a tow truck.

When the tow truck driver arrived, my first instinct was to snap a photograph or two and "check in" on social media so that if the driver was some kind of maniacal killer at least my "friends" would know where and when I disappeared. (Yes, I watch too much Dateline.)

But the driver of the tow truck didn't frighten me at all. Instead, he reminded me of my sons. He was young, early twenties, with a round, boyish face. He wore silver wire-framed glasses and his dark brown hair was short and combed. I didn't catch his name.

We first talked about how he became a tow truck driver. He joined the crew a year ago when his cousin told him about a job opening. He had been "a pizza guy" before that and had not been satisfied.

But driving a tow truck is not his goal. He plans to join the Air Force next month. In his words, "I just need to get out."

I certainly could relate to his sense of urgency. My younger son seems to feel that way, too. With all that has happened over the last few years, my younger son yearns to break free from the dark clouds of his older brother's poor choices and his father's struggles with alcohol. So, because I could relate to this young man's feelings, I shared with him a small part of our story.

It's funny how just a few words can make a difference.

After hearing about my sons' struggles, including my older son's battle with mental illness, suicide intentions, and eventual felony arrest, the young man said this, "That reminds me of my brother."

And then he was quiet.

I wasn't sure if I should ask anymore. He gripped the large steering wheel firmly and stared directly ahead pursing his lips.

I waited.

Then he said, "My older brother had mental problems since middle school. But he was a really good student. He was valedictorian. And he got a free ride to Drexel... But then he killed himself."

Suddenly, a series of realizations occurred to me:

I had hit a rock.
That rock had caused a flat.
That flat had required a tow truck.
The tow truck I was assigned had this driver.
This young driver needed to tell me this.
And I needed to hear it.

The silence was broken eventually. We went on to discuss mental illness and those it affects beyond the patients themselves. I told him about NAMI and what I'd been doing with it lately. I urged him to check it out for himself or suggest it to his dad. His mother, unfortunately, was out of the picture.

Our conversation continued until the moment he shifted the large truck into park. He tilted his head and gave me a crooked, awkward smile before hopping out to unhitch my car. I climbed down and stood beside his giant vehicle suddenly feeling exceptionally small.

What had happened to me in that 25 minute drive? My head was still spinning when he approached me with paperwork to sign.

"Thank you," I said.

"You're welcome," he said sheepishly.

"No, really. Thank you. For talking to me. That was very brave and I really do appreciate it. You're a strong guy. And I think you'll do great in the Air Force. Good luck."

"Thanks," he shrugged.

I extended my hand to shake his, but then quickly decided that wasn't enough. "Can I hug you?" I asked. "I feel like I should hug you."

He smiled, "Sure, yeah, thanks."

And we hugged. Then he climbed back up into the cab of his giant tow truck and drove away.
I never did catch his name.

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful, heart opening story and such a synchronistic experience. I do believe people cross our paths for very specific reasons. Hugs!