Today’s crazy unpredictable moment was my car’s engine blowing out on the 101 North near Reseda.

While cruising along at 60 mph and on pace to arrive at my destination 25 minutes early, I hear “POOFT!” The gas pedal ceases to work and my breaks slowly begin to resist any pressure, locking up. Decelerating fast, I merge over to the exit lane, kindly waving to the vehicle I cut off: a guy and his son in a pickup filled with lawn equipment.

Seeing a red light below, I brake at the top of the exit ramp — it’s a downhill ride and I can save the momentum for the upcoming right hand turn at the bottom of the ramp. Sounding like a good plan at the time I waited for the light to change, but with cars angrily zipping past I slowly inched forward leaving only enough forward motion to partially turn the corner. And there I sat, blocking everybody. Keeping cool and pulling the e-brake, I gave the keys a final turn in hopes of something clicking and was rewarded with a reality shattering cackle of death from my engine.

Well shit.

Stepping out of the car, I flagged down an oncoming skateboarder as he popped out an earphone. “Hey man, will you help me push my car into that driveway?” I motioned, pointing past the adjacent bus stop. The early 20 something kid instantly nods at me, kicking up his board and heading to the back of my car.

“OK, I’m going to steer and push from up here. Ready? Go!”

We easily pushed that car about 20 feet and right before turning into the driveway I’m thinking my car is about to chill in a parking spot — but then the uphill momentum abruptly stops. I glance over my shoulder to see the kid gone and out of sight. The car starts rolling backwards.

“Shit!” I pull the e-break and waved down a teenager walking past and a dude around my age in a pickup track leaving the very parking lot I’m trying to enter. They both lend assistance, as does the dude’s early 60 something dad who was wearing a “John Hammond” hat. With them at the rear I steered my 2000 Chevy Tracker into a parking spot labeled “Doctor” (the only one available at the time) and thanked the gentlemen profusely. We all shook hands.

I called AAA for help and maintained composure while straightening out a debacle on my account which shouldn’t have been there for 15 minutes. Finally, tow truck was sent to help! A friend of mine arrives on scene to patiently wait with me. An hour passes and the truck arrives — there was a miscommunication about the address. As the tow truck driver is getting my car rigged up, a transport van pulls up behind it. At this point I realized I had pulled into a hospital for mentally challenged people. It explained some things I didn’t put together earlier.

Anyway, it took some time for the passengers to exit the van, but nobody seemed to mind, including me. At this point I was just happy to see the tow truck but I’d also be lying if I didn’t say it helped put my situation in perspective.

Once the van left with passengers all unloaded, the tow truck began pulling my car into place. At this moment a woman in her late 40s walks out of the hospital tapping her wrist aggressively, scowling at the driver. He makes a “I’m going as fast as I can!” gesture which makes her stand ground.

“Hey, I’m sorry. We’ll be out of your way soon,” I smiled at her. She went into her car and when we were clear, she waved at us as if to genuinely say “good luck with all that” and took off. I think our situation may have put her tardiness in perspective. Regardless, she could have easily made a three point turn and gotten out of there, but that’s besides the point.

My friend took off and I had a sobering car ride to the mechanic with the tow truck driver, who was a nice guy but barely spoke English. The mechanic’s office was lined with his kid’s drawings which made me feel more comfortable with his hypothesis about my car. I don’t know what it is about that, but I like seeing it in people whose area of expertise is something I’m completely ignorant of. Probably because I also have a kid.

I won’t find out until tomorrow what’s up with the car but I’m almost positive it’s shot. It was nice having a vehicle for awhile, but it’s time to get back into the swing of public transportation once more. The strange people of the PTS always fascinate me, as do the surprisingly normal folks who are engaging. I did miss that element while driving, but what I missed more was the rare compassionate interaction between strangers. This happened to me today and despite the serious financial and time-wasting blow this car issue may turn out to be, I take solace that mankind lent me a brief helping hand today.

It certainly didn’t have to be that way.

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