Lower 48

>>Lower 48


“I’ve got a list of license plates,” the tow truck guy growled, “of guys who’ve flipped me off or rolled down their windows and called me names. Someday, ma’am, one of those jerks is gonna need a tow, and I’ll just let ’em sit there. “

He finished hitching up Max, my usually trusty Maxima, and started winching him in. Max’s electronics had reeled and died on a windy Portland hill after sundown, just past a busy, dark and dangerous curve. I was shivering by the time Max was finally up on his haunches and secured to the tow truck, while a long line of drivers honked and glared and inched past us.

“What is it about Portland?” he asked, “How come they’re in such a hurry they can’t wait three minutes while I help somebody? I’ve never seen a city so mean; these people are just too busy to care for anybody until THEY need help.”

“I dunno;” I said mildly, “Portland’s pretty nice–a couple of honks are tame compared to what would happen in some places I’ve lived. Where are you from?”

“Alaska,” he replied, “Hop on in and we’ll get going.” We finished up the paperwork, he reset his GPS and slipped the truck into gear. He was a nice-looking guy, mid-20s, dark-eyed and muscular. Something about him–work-hardened, chapped-red hands, or maybe the brillo-pad beard–said “mountain man.”

“Alaska,” I mused, “That might explain it. Come down here for family?”

“School,” he said, and blushed. “Stupid, huh? I came down here to study environmental management before I found out what a crock of shit that is. I wanted to manage wilderness and they wanted me to be a vegetarian and hold demonstrations. I told somebody I hunted–hell, in Alaska EVERYbody hunts–and you’da thought I was a cannibal.”

He slipped into traffic and started up the hill. “So I switched over to bridge building–you know, civil engineering. I figure I can do more good building safe bridges for the wrong side than I can waving picket signs for the right side.”

“People in Alaska,” he said reflectively, “they’re not in such a rush. They’re nice to strangers. They take their time and they say hello. They’re polite. They stop to help. Portland? Feh.”

“Portlanders are actually pretty nice,” I protested. “Now back east…I was driving down the freeway and a semi changed lanes right on top of my Corolla. Totaled it, spit it out like a watermelon seed. Four other cars hit me and bounced me down the freeway. Not one stopped. When I woke up, the Corolla was straddling the center lanes, facing oncoming traffic. First thing I saw was this lady in a Mercedes, cussing and flipping me off. I mean, she could see I couldn’t help being there, but she was flipping me off. ”

“THAT,” I said loftily, “Would never happen in Portland.”

He shook his head. “God, that makes me want to go back to Alaska. I was in a crash up there.  Blew a tire, rolled 14 times off a 16-foot drop and ended upside down in a ravine fulla water. Nothing left of that car but the roll cage.”

He stopped at the light and turned to face me. “19 cars drove past. 19 cars stopped. They winched me out of the ditch, they gave me first aid and blankets, they got me to the nearest clinic. A guy opened his lunch box and gave me his thermos of coffee. Just gave it to me.”

“I’d never seen half those guys before in my life, they didn’t know me from Adam but they stopped anyway. And you,” he reminded me, “YOU had to wait for a tow truck while all these cars just drove on by. Think about it.”

Probably wisely, I kept my mouth shut while thinking up a rejoinder. I’m still thinking.



  1. cynthia January 13, 2009 at 10:46 pm - Reply

    Chani, this is a good point. I wasn’t in any real danger as long as I stayed in the car. But Is suppose that if I’d been in the tundra somewhere up in Alaska it would have been a different story…

  2. chaniarts January 5, 2009 at 3:16 pm - Reply

    in alaska, if people don’t stop to help, people die. quickly.

    in portland, they’d just be late getting to starbucks.

  3. cynthia January 5, 2009 at 10:13 am - Reply

    Thanks, Ed. I may give him a call. I’ve got another firm closer by the house I’m calling today, but if they’re as busy as I think they’re going to be, this’ll be a good guy to know.

  4. Ed LaPlante January 5, 2009 at 12:32 am - Reply

    I have a great repair shop who does all of my work. Import Repair Center, Brady Joy, 503.235.7899, 2540 N. Lombard, Portland.
    Met him through racing cars … good guy, straight advise, fair prices. Brady has worked on my Ford truck, Dodge mini van, 92 Accord and Camaro. I also call him for pre-purchase advise on used cars.


  5. cynthia January 4, 2009 at 9:17 pm - Reply

    Hey, Kathleen. It is amazing how many garages take the Christmas/New Years holidays off, so Max is still DOA in the driveway where towtruckguy left him. Hopefully I’ll get through to somebody tomorrow and we’ll get to the bottom of it. Just spent $2K on replacing the battery and a whole buncha stuff (garage said “wow, that’s too bad” when I told them what happened), so I’m hoping it’s not too much to fix, either. Cousin Jeff says it’s probably a busted computer, so we’ll see.

    On towtruckguy–I’ve generally thought the people in every city I’ve lived in were wonderful (with the exception of that lady in the Mercedes), but I especially like glasslanders. I think you kinda get the types you expect but since towtruckguy was the one dragging my car around I wasn’t about to say that.

  6. Kathleen Krucoff January 4, 2009 at 7:42 pm - Reply

    The thought “It’s all relative” comes to mind. Each part of the country is different and that’s a bit of an understatement I think.

    Living in Colorado, I think people are pretty nice here, but certainly not like his description of the folks in Alaska.

    I try to treat others as I would like to be treated, but I don’t always receive the treatment I would like in return.

    You’ve got me scratching my head on this one. Hope you get your Max back soon and it doesn’t cost a fortune to repair either.

Comments welcome! (thanks)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: