“Dad, I’ve got white smoke coming out the back of my car. Is that bad?”
That’s how the phone call from my daughter Molly began as her VW Bug choked and died on the way home to Dallas from Arkansas, where she attends college.
It was unnerving to hear my daughter sobbing on the phone, especially when I had no idea what was really wrong and because she was three hours from home.
Over the next few hours Molly and I played phone tag, and so we began to piece together the drama that she completed when she arrived home safely later that day.
Molly’s Bug had stalled along I-30 between Little Rock, Arkansas and Texarkana, Texas at mid-morning. Almost immediately three cars pulled up behind her on the shoulder of the road. Later she remarked that she saw them all in her rear view mirror, and at first she thought they must have had car trouble too!
Smoke was pouring from under her car hood, and the Good Samaritans jumped out of their vehicles and sprinted to Molly’s car and flung open her driver’s side door. A couple of folks extracted her from the car, grabbed her purse on the way out, and got her to the side of the road in case the car was preparing to combust or self-destruct.
One of the first to reach Molly told her “I’m only a doctor, but I thought I’d stop and see if you were injured or needed help.”
Seeing no obvious flames, two of the guys who stopped then popped open her car hood and tried to determine the cause and extent of the damage.
Within a few minutes, the crowd of saviors determined the car had lost some of its coolant and overheated, and it would have to be towed to a local garage. Ironically, Molly had taken the Bug there previously for other maintenance. The mechanic said her car was NOT overheating, even though the low-fluid dash light was on. Right…
But how to get on to Dallas and home? She could ride with a family of five who were on their way to Six Flags in Arlington, Texas; they could drop her off just a couple of miles from our home, and we could then pick her up from there.
As she told us what was happening via phone that morning, I asked if the family-of-five looked “normal.” “I don’t know,” she replied. “What do serial killers look like?”
In the background I heard the mom asking, “Is that your dad? Tell him that we’re just normal, everyday people!” At least she sounded normal over the phone…
And did I mention that the tow truck driver dispatched to the scene was the nephew of the local garage owner, so he knew just where to deliver the Bug?
Although this whole episode eventually did require a new engine for the Bug (ouch!), it was an enormous relief when we met the family that so graciously transported Molly from the scene of the meltdown to (almost) our front porch.
Molly later told us that the mom of the family had earlier that morning faced impatient questioning from her three children who were eager to get on the road and formally begin their spring break. “Why are we leaving three hours later than we planned, Mom?” “I don’t know, kids, but there’s some reason why; we’ll find out later.” The mom personally told us she knew why their departure had been delayed that morning; so they could be at the right place, at the right time, for Molly.
There are several lessons I learned (or was reminded of) that anxious spring morning:
- There are still some really decent people in the world.
- At least a dozen of them live in Arkansas.
- When your automobile’s low-radiator-fluid light comes on – but the mechanic says it’s not leaking fluid – don’t believe him.
- Thank God for cell phones.
- If you are off your schedule, maybe it is because you are on Someone Else’s schedule.
- People are still more important than things.
We all need to be reminded of points 1-6 from time to time, and I can almost guarantee you will be reminded too, just as I was. But I pray your reminder does not include a fried engine and a petrified child.