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Kindness in Real Life: Four heroes, four strangers and a breakdown

So, today is my first day of preparing to move to a new home. I have just run six errands to tie up some loose ends, and have picked up four or five flattened boxes for packing houshold items, and expect to be home soon.

I have always been a back-roads person who prefers to take the slower, scenic route rather than a straight, boring highway, which is faster, but only if it isn’t frequently congested to a complete standstill (think I-95).

So, late in the afternoon, 5:30 p.m. on March 23, I’ve taken a favorite route, Mile Creek Road in Old Lyme to cross from Niantic to Route 156. I come around a rather sharp turn to the right and start up a hill. Almost immediately I hear a slight clunk and my very dear old 2005 Kia, now with 90,000-plus miles on it, which I have been happily driving across the country for the past 10 years, suddenly stops dead in the middle of this little two-lane road. I have no idea what has just happened, but I do know I can’t move, so I call my roadside service. I give them my address, and yes, they’ll send a tow right away. Wonderful.

Meanwhile, Brennan, my first hero, whom I don’t know from Adam, has seen that I’m stuck right in front of his home and comes rushing out to help.

Am I OK? Yes, I just don’t know what has happened, but I can’t turn the steering wheel or do anything else. He says he can turn it, so he gets in and manages to let my little car roll backward about 8 to 10 feet and gets it partially off the road onto the grass.

Enter my second hero, David, from the opposite side of the street. The two of them start to wave the traffic around my car. I’m a very short distance from the tight curve approaching the hill on my side of the road, ergo: very little warning to oncoming drivers. Approaching the hill from the top affords a bit more visibility, but not a lot. David goes back in and returns with two orange highway cones and puts them behind my car. My cell and I are standing off the road on the grass.

We all wait and talk, and wait, and wait. I make another call to the roadside assistance, and am assured help is on the way.

By this time it’s nearly 7 p.m., and the light is getting dim. There are no streetlights on this country road. We’re all feeling concerened about this situation, so David has called the police for some cover.

Soon hero No. 3, Officer Sal, the state trooper on duty, has arrived and parked his cruiser with all its lights flashing right behind my wounded Kia. Now it’s around 8 and has gotten dark, and it’s also getting very chilly, which I’m really not prepared for, since I’d planned to be home about two hours ago. Sal makes several calls, but also gets no results regarding the apparently lost tow.

Brennan had gone inside a while ago, and now comes running out and asks if I like chicken alfredo. Actually, I rarely eat pasta or any dish with gravy or a cream sauce, but this is an offer I can’t refuse. So, yes, I do!

He goes back in and returns with a bowl of hot alfredo he has just made for his family dinner. Wow, what kindness — not only have I gotten cold, but also hungry, and this is really a special treat. He’s a good cook!

Then David reappears and calls over asking if I’d like some hot tea. Yes, thank you, I’d love it. Then the piece de resistance to put a fine point on all this kindness, he asks “Cream and sugar?” No thanks, just straight, and within minutes he arrives with a large mug of steaming hot tea. In a little while Brennan comes back with a warm blanket to put around me, and later David returns with two homemade cookies ... my delicious dessert!

So I’m standing by the cruiser chatting with Sal, who is kind, and I feel reassured that I’m safe from unsuspecting traffic, and that at some point I will get home again. We wait and chat for about an hour and a half until, voila, hero No. 4 Mike pulls up in the big tow truck. He came as soon as he got the message.

I was later told by my insurance company that my calls had somehow been eaten by the system, and had not been conveyed to the driver.

Now I am a senior and my legs are not as strong as they used to be, and I need to climb straight up a small mountain into the cab. Not gonna happen, so Mike gives me a boost. Thanks, Mike; I might have stood on this road all night otherwise.

By this time the two neighbors’ homes are dark, so I walk up Brennan’s driveway and fold the blanket and put it on his truck. Mike is kind and drops my car at the station, and because there is no one to come pick me up, he goes out of his way to take me to my home in Lyme.

On the way home (four hours later ... it is now 9:30) Mike says he wants to thank me. I’m scanning my brain for what on earth he’d thank me for, since he’s doing me a favor, taking me on the last leg of this long night’s journey.

He says most people in such a situation are having a fit, but I’ve been very patient and even jovial. I tell him I feel there’s not much mileage in getting upset over something I have no control over. And besides I’ve had four men, all complete strangers, be my heroes tonight. Who could complain? I’m so grateful to all of them.

I give Mike a tip, and wish I could give him more.

I’ve taken a thank you card to Brennan and David. Then left a thank you message for Sal at the state troopers’ barracks; and another for Mike at the car repair shop. At a final visit with my doctor before moving, I described my evening out with the guys, and she suggested I send the story to the paper, because in this difficult time of COVID and more, this is such a good example of the kindness of strangers when I was in such need.

So I’m gladly sharing it, and need to say I’m really sorry to have to be moving away from beautiful — and kind — Lyme/Old Lyme and the magnificent Connecticut River.

I recently learned that in 2012 this wonderful river was designated the First National Blueway because there’s no commercial development allowed along the shores, and many organizations have contributed to its good health. I love it and have often sat enjoying the view at the Chester-Hadlyme ferry landing!

Later I found that my old Kia’s timing belt had broken. You know, it’s true what they say: “Timing is everything!”

Thank you, gentlemen of Lyme-Old Lyme!

Louise Lumen lives in Lyme.

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