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Car trouble almost ruined their post-Christmas cheer, but a pair of angels got them back on the road.
Icy slush covered Ontario’s Highway 401. The white lines separating lanes were completely hidden, and our windshield wipers struggled to keep up with the dirty chunks of brown snow that the road spit up. Blinking orange signs warned: Drive With Caution.
“And we figured we were playing it safe by taking the highway,” my husband said. But surely the back roads were worse. What a post-Christmas letdown.
Martin and I liked picturesque scenery and quaint country lanes. On car trips we tried to spend at least one night at a cozy inn, or stop for dinner at an out-of-the-way restaurant.
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The drive home to Toronto from my daughter’s house in Ottawa was only five hours, but when we took our time we always experienced something new and exciting along the way. This storm had other plans for us.
Screech! An ominous scraping sound came from underneath the car. “What’s that?” I asked.
“Who knows,” Martin said. It was enough to crush what was left of our Christmas spirit.
We slowed to a crawl until an exit appeared, then pulled into the parking lot of a fast-food place. As soon as we got out of the car the problem was obvious: part of the rear bumper had detached and was dragging. What now? “Let’s get a cup of coffee,” Martin suggested.
We settled into a booth to consider our options. “Look,” Martin said, pointing out the window. “There’s an auto-repair place right across the street.” We finished our coffee and drove over, with the bumper loudly dragging behind in protest.
A woman greeted us inside. Auburn curls were piled on top of her head, and she smiled so warmly at us she reminded me of a hostess at one of the bed-and-breakfasts Martin and I sometimes liked to spend the night at. “I guess you’ve come about that bumper,” she said, a twinkle in her brown eyes.
It was a busy place. I was surprised that she’d been at the door to greet us, and even more surprised that she noticed our bumper. She walked us over to the service counter. “I’m sorry,” the receptionist said, “all our mechanics have their hands full.”
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Martin and I stepped away from the counter to regroup. The woman who had greeted us had a word with the receptionist, then turned to us. “A spot opened up,” she announced.
We took a seat in the waiting room and our greeter appeared again. “My son Jeremy will service your car himself,” she said.
In time, a young mechanic with the name tag “Jeremy” and familiar brown eyes came into the waiting room. “I was able to fix the bumper enough to get you back to Toronto,” he said. “But when you get home you’ll have to take it in for further repairs.”
Mike and I were beaming as we walked out of the shop. Christmas was over on the calendar, but the Christmas spirit was alive and well in this place.
A few months later I decided to take another quick trip to see my daughter. I took the highway so I could stop in at the auto-repair shop and say hi. The place was as busy as it had been when we were so desperate for help. But this time my greeter and her son were nowhere to be found.
I went to the service counter and asked for Jeremy.