My husband and I went on a date last week! With little ones at home, we use up most of our “date nights” at required functions for business, school, and church. A night on the town for just the two of us is a rare treat. This night was no exception. We drove through the city, felt the late night urban buzz, and saw the monuments by moonlight. Odd that this evening, like many of the special times he and I have shared, also included a tow truck driver.
Earlier in the day, my husband’s beloved 10 year old Jag overheated. Summers on the East coast are brutal, with the regular forecast being “hazy, hot, and humid.” It’s all a person can do to not melt into a puddle of sweat by 9:00 am. The 100+ degree heat indices take their toll on everyone and everything, including cars. Especially older cars, something for which my guy has a fondness. Like a child who reaches out to wounded animals, he is drawn to cars that need TLC. At least this Jaguar, his “impractical sculpture,” is in far batter condition and looks nice compared to some of the others he has loved.
When we met in college, he parked his old grey Cougar next to my shiny red Honda with its stick shift and bucket seats. He loved to whip around our little university town in his automatic car with the American engineering. I loathed that boat and offered to drive my zippy little Japanese car at every opportunity.
By the time we made the crazy love-fool decision to spend a summer driving cross-country, we “upgraded” to his father’s ’84 Grand Marquis. This twenty-year old monstrosity bore the scars from the acid rain crisis, with peeling grey paint across the hood, roof, and trunk. But it worked and had a cavernous trunk to hold all our belongings for an 8-week adventure. In fact, it worked quite well until we hit the Pacific Coast Highway 40 miles south of Tijuana, Mexico. That’s when it just kind-of stopped along the highway. Well, not kind-of. It stopped. Dead. We flagged down a tow truck driver who, though already burdened with another couple of unprepared gringos, jump-started the “Merc” and suggested we head back north to the US border. We heeded his advice and drove away, laughing at the silly Americans who needed a tow truck in Mexico!
Yes, those silly Americans. Just. Like. Us. We spent a long, terrifying day fighting a dead alternator in a foreign country. Every time we used power in the car, the battery died hard and fast. Turn signals. Power window controls. Brake lights. It all drained the battery, requiring us to throw the car in neutral and rev the engine, hoping to restart the car without requiring a jump. Soon enough, all that revving also drained the gasoline, causing the gas level indicator to light up. Lights, power, dead battery again. After more than 16 kindly folks along the highway jump-started our dead battery, we limped to the US border, but not before the Merc gave one last shudder and died. In Mexico. We literally pushed the car across the border into our homeland where we could call AAA and a tow truck driver.
Fast forward many years (and several more tow trucks) to a Jag on the outskirts of the city, waiting for its own ride. I headed downtown to retrieve my husband from a very long, frustrating day. The tow truck driver didn’t know his way around the city, so we had to meet in a nearby town and lead him back, caravan-style. As he carefully pulled the Jag onto the flatbed, I watched my husband in amazement. Exhausted, disappointed, beaten, but never defeated or cross, he amicably chatted with his new pal, one of dozens over the years. Then he climbed into my trusty Japanese minivan. We drove home from our impromptu date night, laughing and retelling our many car stories. One more adventure under our belts, one more tow truck story for the rosters, one more evening spent with my best friend, learning to face life with grace and laughter. Now that was a great date!