Enjoy the slow pace of life...
Enjoy the slow pace of life that is the south by walking at a leisurely pace through the canopy of trees that line the wide streets and are strategically broken up with fine squares that make you realize that city planners seemed to know more about life then than they do now... I slumped down in the hot car seat, a bit dejected. The old Honda Civic had never failed me before, but here I was, stranded on my way back to Savannah from Tybee Island, off the coast of Georgia. Though the eleven-year-old car had 215,000 miles on it that spanned from Key West, Florida to Fairbanks, Alaska, I had maintained it well and it had never failed me before. We arrived in Savannah late on a Saturday afternoon with plans of spending a few hours before making our way towards Charleston. When we decided to stay, there was little in the way of inexpensive accommodation and in fact, little available at all aside from very seedy places on the edge of town. We got a nice room about a half hour up the road towards Charleston and I suggested going back to Savannah the next day and paying for another night in this room as it would allow us to see Savannah and then be well on our way to our next destination early the following day. It seemed like a great idea at the time.
Arriving early on Sunday morning, Savannah seemed a much more peaceful place. It was easy to secure free parking and we enjoyed strolling the magnolia-strewn streets. The scent of the south in spring was in the air with calm respite from the summer heat in the canopy of trees shading the street, culminating most magnificently in the many manicured squares that dot the sleepy city. With the early start and with some things being closed on Sunday, we decided we had seen enough of the city and headed to Tybee Island, Savannah’s beachside resort, about 45 minutes away. We were disappointed with its brown ocean and crowded beachfront and the trip seemed a waste of time. Little did we realize how much time we would lose. On the way back, we both noticed the smell emanating from the engine and finally the temperature gauge shooting towards the upper extremity with alarming speed. I pulled over to find my radiator taxed and smoking. I called AAA for road service and they said someone would be there in an hour and that’s when I started to slump in the hot car seat and where this story started.
Charlie arrived and apologized not so much for being late as for the fact that there was little he could do for us. It was Sunday and there wasn’t a mechanic open for a hundred miles. He then said he couldn’t tow us more than five miles but he would follow us back into town if we liked. We made it all of a mile before it overheated again. I asked him where his shop was and he said about ten miles south of Savannah, and about fifteen miles from where we stood stranded. He said he’d bring us back there for free so with little choice, we loaded up the Civic on the truck and hopped in. He took us to a couple motels near the shop but he couldn’t bear to leave us there. They were run down crack houses and certainly no place to bring a pretty young lady visiting from another country. He brought us back to his shop and left us off outside the gate as he had two calls while carting us around the last two hours. He said he’d come back as soon as he could and even bring us into Savannah if he had the time. We sat tight as it was getting dark and the area on the main street didn’t seem too safe. He finally did return and opened up the compound for us to lock the car inside with all of our belongings. He then drove us to Savannah and was willing to take us from motel to motel, but I told him to go as we would find something and he’d done more than enough already. We were safe where we were and the worst thing that would happen is we’d pay for an expensive room or sleep in the bus station. I managed to find a room at the local hostel and we resigned ourselves to another day in Savannah.
We enjoyed the next morning, leisurely having breakfast on the balcony and not in a rush. I called the mechanic who explained the radiator and fan were shot but that it would be done by late afternoon. One day turned into two and the radiator turned into a water pump and timing belt. It was time for drastic measures so we picked up some shampoo, a razor and shaving cream, and a comb. Just because we were stuck wearing the same clothes for three days, there was no reason for us to smell like it too. We got ready for our first full-fledged night on the town. Okay, even I was tiring of the brewpub by this point but we weren’t exactly dressed for the Velvet Elvis, a local alternative club, with a line running up the street of blackly bedecked and carefully scruffy collegians waiting to get in. Beige Bermudas and Birkenstocks were just not going to make it and that’s what I had been sauntering around town in for three days. After a few beers, we went back home, anticipating an early start the next day.
The car was ready around two and they send a truck around to pick us up at, where else, the brewpub. The car was still in one piece and working like a charm. Okay, it cost me about $850 but I had learned a couple of things in the process. First, I found out that the girl I’d fallen in love with in Germany was not just another pretty face, but someone that would stick by me when things got rough, not make me feel inadequate for it, and best yet, laugh about and enjoy our situation better than could be expected. And second, I leaned to never underestimate human kindness. Charlie could have played it by the book, and said, he couldn’t tow us more then five miles. He could have dropped us off at a dive, with our car in dodgy surroundings, but he didn’t. He went beyond his duty and did what a person really should do. He made sure we were okay and safe. I couldn’t make a big deal over it at the station as he had perhaps overstepped his job and done something wrong in driving us around for hours. I never got to say more than a big thank you to him when he dropped us off in Savannah, but he could see from the smiles on our faces, we were more than just grateful and I hope that whenever he passes those seedy hotels, he remembers the couple that he knew didn’t belong there, and made the extra effort to make sure they either. Thanks again, Charlie.