Three Trump supporters helped me change a tire yesterday; one of them an older man named Roy, a retired Purple Heart vet, the other Jose, a rancher and golf course owner and the third, Lucas, a young man living in Madeline, CA, the very small and rural town (pop: 60) where I was nearly stranded yesterday.
While gathered around my truck in the freezing cold – all of us together, strangers, a total hodge podge of people – making plans for my blown out tire, making plans for getting me back on my trip safely, I realized that even though we are all such different people, we are also very alike. While we may come from different places and have very different views, at the root of it all, we are all good and kind people. Good and kind people who can put differences aside to help others in need.
In that moment, standing there watching them work on my car, I felt so much love and warmth for these three strangers. So much gratitude.
Our views and politics may differ but our needs for kindness, graciousness and compassion do not. It was an importnat reminder for me that we need to walk into this year, no matter how confusing, with gratitude. With compassion for our fellow humans. And with love and understanding, even when we don’t agree.
As I tell you this story, I almost don’t believe it myself. It just doesn’t seem real. Trust me, I can’t get over how unreal of a day I had. And I’m sure my family is sick of hearing about it. But it’s just crazy how all of these events happened in one single day. I received all of these random acts of kindness and compassion from total strangers. It seems unreal to me that all of this could happen on the day that our new President elect took office. A President I so vehemently disagree with. A President who I am reluctant to ever call my own.
My day started early in Klamath Falls, OR at a little dog friendly hotel, the Cimarron Inn, where I laid my head for the night after my first nearly 7.5 hour day of driving en route to Lake Tahoe for my mom’s 60th. I woke up early to finish some work, load the car, and check out so I could hit the road as early as possible. I was taking the dogs out to potty one last time and when I went to throw away the poo bags, a cluster of people came out of the door adjacent to the trash can, exciting the dogs. In my haste to get the dogs to settle (aka not jump on all the coffee carrying people), I swiftly deposited the poo and walked away. As I reached for my car keys, I started to panic as they were no longer in my pocket. I checked all of my pockets and then ran back over to the garbage. As I was peering inside, trying to figure out a good strategy for my morning dumpster dive, one of the hotel staff came towards me and asked if I needed help. I said, oh no, no, I’m just not thinking straight and I’m pretty sure I dumped my keys in the garbage. She came over and said, I’ve got it and swiftly unlocked the top of the can and went to digging around for my keys. I felt so sheepish and silly watching her working through the garbage and then bright red when she came up empty handed. I walked back over to the grass where I had let the dogs relieve themselves and there were my car keys. Just laying there, mocking me. I apologized profusely to the woman who had jumped in to help and offered to buy her a coffee at the neighboring Starbucks where I was headed next. She declined and said, honey, you had your hands full. When someone has their hands full, it’s my job to help!
I walked away feeling lucky that I had located my keys and grateful for this kind woman. Next, I went through the Starbucks drive-thru, ordered my drink and pulled up to the window to pay. When I held out a $10 bill, the woman said, oh, your drink is already covered. Have a nice day. I stared blankly at her. She went on, the woman in the car ahead of you paid for your drink. I said, but I don’t know anyone here? Was this intended for a different car, perhaps? She laughed and said, nope, she just wanted to do something kind today. I took my coffee and said thank you. Wow. Really. Thank you. Simple but kind. And so unexpected. My lucky day.
The drive from Klamath into California was going well. Little snow flurries here and there but nothing too extreme. We stopped in a coupe of small towns along the way – Tuelake to let the dogs romp a little in the snowy park….
And then Alturas for coffee and some fun mural photos….
And I was making great time. I was expected to arrive in South Lake by 2:30pm. Perfect.
After Alturas, we were on a long, lonely (and beautiful) stretch of highway. No services for 70 miles. Just long, winding, snowy, and slightly windy highway. The dogs were sleeping, I was listening to a podcast and all was well. I was calculating our next gas / potty / stretch our legs stop – factoring it into our ETA and getting excited to get myself and the dogs out of the car.
And then Abbie suddenly jolted awake. She seemed alarmed. She put her paw on my arm. I said, what’s up? And then the car started shaking and rattling and making this clank…clank…clank…rrrrrrrrmmmppphhhhh…clannnnnkkk…voooooohhhhrrrrrr….kind of sound. Oh shit.
I looked around and there was literally no shoulder. Just one lane highway for as far as I could see. I slowed the car, switched off the podcast, leaned forward and braced myself for a rattly descent. After a few miles, I could see what looked like a gas station in the distance and started to feel a little more relaxed. Only when I got closer, I saw that it was a gas station that had likely been abandoned ten years ago. But just across the street, there was finally a shoulder to pull off on. I pulled over, got out of the car and saw my shredded tire just staring at me.
I was in the town of Madeline, CA. A town that is basically a block. It was empty – except for the house I had parked in front of – I could hear dogs barking – and I could see they had all kinds of sheds. And animal parts and trinkets hanging around. It was a little creepy, really. I put my hazards on, stood outside in the cold trying to figure out what to do. I had no cell service. I was still 60 some odd miles from Susanville and nearly 15 miles from the next small town (Likely, CA). I was on the verge of panic – thinking about whether I had enough water, food, etc – for myself and the dogs. Thinking how I wish I had learned to change a tire. Thinking how utterly helpless I felt. And then a truck passed going the other way. I watched them drive off. I though, dammit. I should’ve waved my arms more abruptly. And then in the distance, I thought I saw them turning around.
Thankfully, it wasn’t my imagination. They were turning around. They pulled up behind me – Roy and Jose – and asked me what was going on. I pointed to my tire. And Roy looked at me and said, Oregon, huh? He was wearing an Oregon Ducks shirt. I said, yes sir. I’m from Portland. He thought about it for a minute, Portland, huh? … I noticed that he was wearing a Make America Great Again hat. I said, yes, Portland. I’m heading to Tahoe for my mom’s 60th. He said, well Jose and I are going to help you. We saw you and I said to Jose, man that could be your daughter out there. We knew we needed to help. But before we do, tell me something – are you heading out to a Trump protest? If so, that might make me feel different about helping…He said it with a smile. But I didn’t want to take my chances. I wasn’t lying if I said I wasn’t explicitly driving to Tahoe for a protest. I never had to say whether or not I was a supporter. So I repeated that I was headed to Tahoe for my mom’s birthday. He said, ok, well, please just let people know that two Trump supporters stopped to help you. I promised him I would spread the word. It’s the least I can do.
Roy made small talk while Jose got to work on the tire. Roy was quite a bit older and I think a bit injured. It was obvious they were old friends. My bumper is all jacked up from being the victim of a hit and run several years ago so access to my spare tire was bad. They needed a crank bar to get to the tire and so Roy went and knocked on the door of the creepy house with all the animal parts and trinkets. And out came Lucas, a young guy with an endless toolshed. He promptly took off his jacket, laid it down and got under my truck. He and Jose went to work to get to the tire and then replace it. It was freezing out. Neither of them were wearing gloves. And they were getting muddy and dirty from lying underneath the truck. I couldn’t believe how amazing and generous these strangers were being.
After they got the spare tire on, Roy advised that I drive back to Likely – about 15 miles back – to put more air in the tire – he was worried that spare was too low to make it all the way to Susanville and he knew his friend Rick had a hose. They escorted me to Likely and to Rick’s and got me all taken care of and then we said our goodbyes. I tried to offer them a little cash for their help but they wouldn’t take it. Instead, Roy just said, just remember to be kind to others. We didn’t do this for any gains. We just did it to help someone in need of helpin’. And then he went on with more advice – told me to get a new spare – that I shouldn’t be driving in these conditions without one and made a recommendation that I stop in Susanville to pick up another tire. And then he shook my hand and we parted ways.
As I drove off, I couldn’t believe how kind they had been. I couldn’t believe how lucky I had been. I couldn’t believe that these Trump supporters were so kind, compassionate, generous and even…funny. It made me realize that instead of anger, I need to embrace kindness, compassion and understanding over the course of these next four years. I don’t have to agree with our President and his supporters but I need to remember that they too, are human. That when it comes down to it, we need to treat everyone with respect and love. That we need to be grateful for what we do have rather than angry at what we don’t have.
I drove on to Susanville, feeling a mix of emotions. I was relieved, happy, and also just grateful. Sure I could be pissed off. I was in the middle of nowhere, adding hours to my already long drive and slightly worried about driving the snowy leg from Reno to South Lake in the dark. But instead I chose to be happy. To be grateful that my shitty situation was actually pretty amazing. To realize how lucky I was that Roy, Jose, Lucas and Rick were willing to help me. To realize how lucky I was to get reminded that above all else, we need to practice love, understanding and human kindness.
Thank you Roy, Jose, Lucas and Rick for your help….with everything.
I pulled into the tire shop in Susanville. A bunch of rough around the edges type guys all standing around, a lot of them smoking cigarettes. I told them my situation and the very kind man who helped me thought about it and said, I could sell you a tire for $175. But your tire might be under warranty so really, you should go to a Big-O and take it there and try to replace it. But I want you to feel safe so let me see what I have out back. He returned and let me know he had a used tire that would fit. He had his guys remove the hub cap from my shredded tire, place it on the used tire and check my spare to make sure it was in good condition. They helped me put away my jack (harder than it sounds) and then when I went to pay, they said, not necessary. You’re all set. Get yourself to a Big-O and get your tire replaced when you can. But for now, just rest easy that you have an extra tire if the situation were to arise. I thanked him and all the guys in the shop who had helped (who were busy playing with the dogs) and took off. As I got back behind the wheel, all I could think was:
I still had over three hours of driving ahead of me. And I knew it was likely going to be some of the worst. I filled the gas tank, let the dogs out one last time. And smiled. I don’t know how I got to be this lucky, I thought. When I got to Reno, the sun was setting and the snow was coming down pretty hard.
I leaned forward, kept my eyes laser focused on the road and my hands gripping the wheel and finally made it to the house. Safe. Sound. And in one piece.
And just totally and completely in awe of humans. And grateful for their kindness. Grateful for this life.
So no matter what your views – whether you’re protesting this weekend or not – just remember that we only win when we’re kind to others. Three Trump supporters helped me drive safely to Tahoe yesterday.
Be kind to others. Be grateful for those who are kind.
And remember – a shitty situation is only as shitty as you make it out to be – so don’t make it shittier than it has to be.
As always, stay sweaty friends!