I set out on the QEW on this beautiful, sunny, Sunday afternoon to head to lovely Niagara-on-the-Lake. I was on a time line and a bit stressed having left about 15 minutes later than I wanted to. As it turns out, I never made it to my destination. Around Stoney Creek, just before the Fruitland Road exit I experienced the dreaded flat tire. On my brand new car!!! After hearing this enormous racket, I pulled over to the side of the road to find my right back tire completely flat. At that moment, I realized that I would not be making my meeting. (Trust me, it was one of those things that you just don't arrive late for.) I also had to acknowledge the fact that I had no idea how to change the tire. Yes, my father taught me how to change a tire, back in high school when I was learning to drive, but that was almost 20 years ago and I have never had to actually do it. The traffic whizzing by at 120 kms/hour didn't help either. Choking back tears, anger, helplessness & frustration, I called the Roadside Assistance number. After a minute of press 1 for this, press 2 for that, a friendly human voice greeted me. I was a bit hard on the poor guy, since I was pretty pissed that the car I have owned for less than a month had a flat. I think he understood my frustration when he asked how many kilometers I had on the car. My reply "1006", was answered with "..oh..". He was incredibly helpful and informed me that help would arrive within 45 minutes or sooner as he had me on the priority list. I thanked him and hung up the phone.
I sat in the car, trying to calm myself. After a few minutes, a tractor trailer sailed passed me, break lights on, tire debris and smoke following behind. A large section of the truck's tire landed on the road about 10 feet away from my car. That's the point that panic set in. Here I am pulled over at the side of a three lane expressway while the rest of the traffic slows down in an effort to avoid the tire debris. At that moment, I was just glad not to be outside of my car attempting to change the tire myself. I thought for sure that someone would smash into my car in an effort to avoid the crap on the road. About 20 minutes passed and the first bystander pulled over. A nice woman got out of her SUV and asked if I needed help. She said that she stopped because she saw that I was a woman and I was alone. I almost hugged her. While sitting in my car waiting for roadside assistance I kept hoping that no one would stop to help me. Isn't that crazy? I was afraid that a man would pull over to "help" and then rob me, beat me or worse. But because she was female, I felt safe and comforted.
I sat in my car for another 15 minutes when a white truck pulled up in front of me. A man got out and asked if I needed help. I replied with a hearty "yes, please!" assuming that he was the roadside assistance guy. He hauled the spare and the jack out of the trunk and went to work. He'd barely started removing the dead tire when a tow truck pulled up behind my car. I turned to the man and sheepishly said "you're not roadside assistance, are you?" He said he had stopped because he thought I needed help. I looked up at his truck and realized that his business had nothing to do with rescuing stranded motorists. He then replied, "I guess my truck confused you." At this point, I felt like a complete moron. I explained my mistake to the roadside assistance guy. He was very nice and as he left, informed me that I would not be charged for the call. At that point, I didn't care. I was completely embarrassed and angry at myself. Not only could I not change a tire, but I had apparently lost the ability to tell the difference between a tow truck and any other sort of vehicle. As my good Samaritan finished, I thanked him and offered him money, which he refused. I barely had enough time to get his company name and phone number off the back of his truck as he pulled away. As embarrassed as I was for being the helpless woman at the side of the road, I was grateful for the kind soul who took a few minutes out of his day to help a complete stranger. My brief encounter with the woman and man who stopped to help me has renewed my faith in humankind. People are good, we just get so wrapped out in our own lives that it doesn't always show. These two individuals have shown me the power of human kindness.
I'm still pretty emotional as I type this. I've always prided myself on being independent and self-sufficient. Today, I was not. I was completely helpless. This is not a feeling that I experience often and I hate the effect that it has on me. I am angry at myself for not being able to take care of myself. But I am relieved to know that there are still people out there that will go out of their way to help you. I just hope that I can return the favour someday.