Returning from western Kentucky, pushing the speed limit to shave a few minutes off the 200-plus mile trip, I pulled onto the Pennyrile Parkway for a quick refuel when the car stopped running.
I stood on the side of the road in a cold, mid-December rain late on a darkening Friday afternoon looking at a mangled engine belt under the hood. So much for schedules.
I got back inside with Kentucky Living Managing Editor Anita McMannis, who had promised to bake an elaborate cake that night for her niece’s baby shower. While we waited we booted up the laptop computer and used it to soothe ourselves by playing Christmas music CDs.
Convinced I’d be spending the night nearby, I phoned an associate at Pennyrile Electric Cooperative, 20 miles south in Hopkinsville, to arrange for renting a car to get Anita home. He gladly helped. He even invited us to the office Christmas party that evening.
Within the hour I found myself chatting with Alvin Oats of Kelly’s Towing & Environmental in White Plains. We sat in his office, countless cell phones scattered around a huge desk, keeping him in touch with his 13 trucks and service garage. Despite my trouble explaining the unlikely details of baking a cake and the Christmas party I might go to, he helpfully set me up with a desk and an electric outlet for my computer and cracked, “We’ll have to get a camera so we can show your boss a picture of you working after five o’clock.”
But it had been too long a day for real work, so I cleaned out my briefcase. I discovered I had collected eight nearly new tubes of Chap Stick. I wondered if that stash said something significant about my personality.
Somehow one of Alvin’s workers found the parts in Madisonville and resurrected my car just four hours after it died.
On the way back to Louisville, I had time to sift some simple, trite-but-true lessons from the evening: a cell phone and AAA membership make excellent road-trip companions. When schedules change, keep your sense of humor. Ask for help. Pay attention to the people you meet. Count your Chap Stick.