At 2:22, I was standing in the rain on the side of highway 49 with Eric and a ninety year old man. I had just called up Jeff to see if he would come out and help us push this old man’s truck. It had stopped in the left turn lane with smoke coming out of the hood. Half an hour later, Jeff played the message I left him. It was just four seconds of silence, followed by an exhaled “Whoa…”
Eric and I had spotted the old GMC smoking out in the rain right after I got back from lunch. He immediately wanted to get out there and push it off the highway, but I was more reluctant. I just didn’t feel like being helpful. I told him that I had something to do, but I’d go out there with him if the truck was still there when I got back. By the time I was done, the truck hadn’t gone anywhere. I flipped up the hood of my jacket, and we stepped out into the rain.
When we got down to the road, it was obvious that the truck was empty. Eric walked out to get a closer look, and I went to look for the driver in the gas station across Wolf Road. There were only two people inside, the Pakistani clerk, and an old man on the phone. He hung up almost immediately, and I asked if that was his truck out in the highway. He agreed, and explained that AAA was coming out to tow it.
“Do you want help to push it off the road?”
“You think you could push it?”
“Well, there’s two of us. You could put it in neutral and steer it, and we can push.”
It took the clerk’s help to talk him into it. But as we walked out together, he told me that he appreciated the help. I noticed that he walked with a severe limp. He never bent his left knee at all.
“When you get to be ninety years old, you move a little slow!” He told me without prompting.
“Well, that’s ok. That’s what happens.”
Eric met us on the dirt next to highway 49 and asked if we needed a third man. We had seen Jeff pull in as we were crossing the road to the gas station, so I said I would call him. I dialed as we walked to the edge of the highway. I looked left at the cars and trucks speeding by. The old man was next to me, also watching the traffic. I saw that there was a short break in the flow, and then looked at Eric on my right as I listened the ring tone. When I looked back left, the old man was hobbling out into two lanes of traffic.
A motorcycle and two cars were only about thirty feet away, traveling at fifty-five miles an hour. The motorists laid on their horns and I started shouting. The old man looked up and seemed to see the vehicles for the first time. The only thing I could think of was that at ninety years old, he’d lived long enough.
Somehow, he managed to hop onto the center line between the two lanes and he danced there as the motorcycle swerved and the cars slid past with their brakes locked. The road was clear behind them. The old man clutched his chest and traveled the rest of the way to his truck. He collapsed onto the fender and then turned to half lay against it. I don’t remember hanging up the phone. The next thing in my memory is standing in front of the old man and asking if he was ok.
“Yeah, I guess I’m ok. That scared the hell out of me!”
“Yeah. It scared the hell out of us too. Let’s get your truck off the road.”