Saturday, August 11, 2007

Arnold's Angels

Driving up scenic highway 280 yesterday reminded me of my first, glorious day ever in California, when my friend Ken Rudin recruited me to Oracle. (Ken, who was also my T.A. in CS141 Hardware Architecture, now runs Lucidera a SaaS B.I. startup.) Ken confessed to me that on his first day in California, he had mis-understood some advice that if he wanted to take the highway, "he could drive up to 80."

So that's what I was doing in the fast lane when suddenly my car started shaking as though I was driving on rubble. I tried changing to a non-rubbly lane but my car still shook like the '89 world series. It finally dawned on me that the problem might not be the road, so I pulled onto the shoulder as wisps of smoke drew my attention to the few remaining shreds of tire that had once protected my rear left wheel.

I smoothly finished the phone call I was on, yielding no hint of a problem and steeling myself to change the tire as traffic whizzed by. But just as I said my goodbye, a shining white tow truck pulled up behind me. At first I thought I was in for a negotiation. I certainly didn't need a tow, but perhaps I could enlist some assistance...

Well, there turned out to be no need for negotiation. The driver Steve Pauley politely introduced himself and the Freeway Service Patrol--a fleet of 83 contracted tow truck operators patrolling 550 miles of Bay Area freeways during peak traffic for motorists in need of assistance. Sponsored by C.H.P. and Caltrans, the Freeway Service Patrol tows disabled vehicles, supplies gasoline to poor planners, and tapes hoses and refills radiators all for free. When Steve saw my problem, he immediately descended from his chariot, jacked up my car, and installed my spare tire faster than I could say, "Now what does this doo-hickey do again?"

The good Samaritan accepted my thanks, but refused to accept a gratuity. I couldn't have been more impressed by the whole experience. It was yet another wonderful day in California, as glorious as my first nearly 20 years ago. Maybe this year I really will file those state tax returns!

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1 comment:

  1. It's a really surprising service that is extra helpful when you end up on the left-hand shoulder in the middle of the night for a change. The guy even rearranged my flares for optimal placement and said soothing things to me about the law regarding left-hand pullovers during emergencies.