A couple of weeks ago some good friends of mine got married and several friends that witnessed the wedding camped out. That night I had the opportunity to pull some things out of my truck and received a little poking fun of for my being prepared. I laughed it off but noted that the people that made light humor of it were happy to have the materials I provided. I put it on my to-do list to restock my truck kit.
Tonight I was driving home. I had left a bar from downtown Portland and hit I-5 headed north. I was almost to the Rose Center past the Morrison Street Bridge and I saw some hazard lights blinking on the side of the road. I pulled over as I usually do. Inside was a young woman, 23?, with two toddlers and a baby. She had run out of gas and had no cell phone and did not have a gas can, nobody looking for her, and was driving to an area twenty miles north. I put out two flares behind the vehicle and went to buy a gas can and some gas. What is more is that my military pay, which was every two weeks, had for some reason switched over to a three week gap and pay day was the next day. I had been aggressively paying off and catching up on late bills accrued over the past month, and all I had left was $20 in my wallet. I was thankful that I had the cash available to be able to get this person a gas can and a gallon of gas.
Returning back I put the gas in and she made small talk. I wished her well and went back to my truck and waited. At this time a white truck pulled over. It was painted with various flames and such. I ran over to the truck and it had two latino men in it, one wearing a beanie cap, and they gave me a thumbs up sign asking if things were okay. I told them that it was a gas issue and it was resolved. They said okay and drove off. The lady had told me she had been waiting on this busy highway in downtown Portland for well over an hour and not a single soul had stopped. Aside from myself only two latino men stopped. Those with racist stereotypes should keep score.
While they drove off I turned and watched her in the car and waited. And waited. And waited. I couldn’t leave until I had been assured of her vehicle moving. It wasn’t. She was moving throughout the car, sometimes a door wide-open and her legs sticking out past the white line of the the shoulder. At one point I ran over to the car and closed the door a little while waving a chemlight around (I have several traditional kinds, and four battery operated kinds on string). She was flabbergasted. She could not find her car key. She thinks her little boy had it. Her car was a mess. It looked like she was moving and was carrying lots of food stuffs, most of which were supposed to be refrigerated or kept cold and were now completely thawed.
I went back to my truck and quickly kicked myself for not having a flashlight. I had forgotten that I had taken both of my lights out and put them in my pack for the Hood to Coast rally. I mentally made a to-do to buy a truck only light and extra batteries. But I had plenty of chem lights. I had also noticed that my flares had died and so I went and replaced them with two fresh flares. Using chem lights we searched the car, trunk, and underneath the car. The car was a mess and filled with trash, rocks, bits of tree bark. And with the spoiling food and a needed diaper change it wasn’t pleasant. I gotta hand it to mom for keeping her cool. She didn’t yell or put on a show of frustration. She kept calm. But something dawned on me… we were on an overpass and one of the little toddlers, who was making animal noises now, had the key at one time. I asked her if he ever got close to the railing. Was it at all possible for him to throw the key over the rail. It was. So I took a chemlight and ran down the highway to where I could exit the overpass and ran back to the spot beneath the car and searched the grass and mud with a blue chemlight. I mentally upgraded the flashlight I was to get for the truck to a ‘big spotlight’. After several minutes it seemed clear that was nothing here or the kid had an arm and really threw it far. I ran back to the car.
I started searching the inside of the car, having grabbed an empty bag from my truck and we started putting trash in it. I had run back to the truck to get my battery powered chemlights on string to twirl around, as my third set of flares had burned out now and I was out of them, to increase visibility. People, if you see a car on the side of a narrow shoulder, do us a favor and drive into the opposite lane. Seriously. Otherwise I’m going to yell at you as you drive by. I had forgotten, but quickly noticed, that at the ends of those battery chemlights were LED whitelights. I ran back to the car to use this in the search when she popped up from behind the door showing me a single solitary ignition key. She found it!
Rejoicing I packed my gear away into the truck and waited, again, for her to turn the car on and drive away. And I waited some more. Getting out I noticed that her car was making little clicking noises. Her battery had died. I hadn’t noted that her flashers went out earlier. They were on bright when we started looking for the key, but now they were out. It was a highway overpass, there was no room for me to safely turn my truck around for a closer engine to engine orientation to use a set of jumper cables. However I remembered that I had two sets in my truck. Yes… two. I’ve been meaning to give one set to a friend for a while but kept forgetting. So I backed the truck up as far as I could go and stretched them out. Too short. I remembered that in her trunk she had a set as well. She was very frustrated now, her head leaned against the steering wheel. I tried to make light of it by saying that if she chose to write a country western song this is good material. She popped the trunk and I pulled out her set of cables and attached them to my two sets. My two kits in my truck (ropes, bungee cords, blanket, flares, etc…) are kept in clear plastic craft boxes that fit neatly behind my seat and I can look inside without opening them. But they are plastic. The ground was wet and I needed insulation for the connections between the jumpers so I placed the plastic boxes onto the wet concrete and the connected alligator clips on top of them.
“Okay, turn it over” I said. Nothing. Not a click, not nothing. I checked all the connections, wiggled things around, and still nothing. I reved the engine but didn’t think this was it as her car was smaller than my truck. It would have no problem turning it over. It was a simple problem… there was an ‘open’ in my circuit somewhere. I looked at the set of cables she had. They looked old and crappy. It had to be them. I remembered that she had another set in her trunk still in the package (I could see them under some rocks). I replaced her set with another, three sets of jumper cables lined out, and told her to turn it over.
Success!! I disconnected them and gave her instructions on the nearest gas station and also told her not to turn her car off for a bit. She as very and happy to be able to get back on the road. It was now almost midnight and she’d been stranded for several hours now. I let her pull out in front me me, assured that she was now really moving, and I continued on my way as well.
The entire time I I was saying to myself “I am happy that I am available to help this person out. Thank you for letting me come across this person”.