Repairman to the Rescue

A policewoman, stranded on an empty highway on Christmas, receives some unexpected help.


Various cars entering a highway lined with lush forests.

There’s one good thing about being on the road Christmas Day, I thought, driving from my parents’ house in Richmond, Virginia, back to Charlotte, North Carolina. No traffic. I’d barely seen another car on the interstate all day.

Most people were home with their families. But not me. I was a policewoman, new enough on the force that I didn’t get a choice of shifts. I’d managed to score time off Christmas Eve, but I had to be back on duty tonight.

My sergeant made it clear: “Be here for roll call before the midnight shift.” It was a four-hour drive to my parents’ house; I’d only had time to eat dinner and exchange gifts before I hit the road again.

Near the Carolina state line, my car started to cough. First a hiccup, then a full-blown hack. I pulled off at the next exit. Two-thirds of the way up the ramp, the engine died. What do I do now?

I got out and looked around. There was a service station down the road, closed for the holiday. I could call a tow truck, but who was available on Christmas Day?

What if I didn’t make it in time for my shift? My sergeant would never believe that I hadn’t been waylaid by eggnog and Christmas cookies.

Just then a lone car approached on the interstate. A blue El Camino. Haven’t seen one of those in years. The driver slowed and pulled off next to me. He rolled down his window. “I’m the mechanic. What seems to be the problem?”

I couldn’t believe my luck! I explained how the car died. In less than three minutes the man popped the distributor cap, opened the points, cleaned the contacts and told me to try starting the engine. My car roared to life.

“Thank you!” I said, offering him the money in my wallet.

The man shook his head. “No charge on Christmas. Good thing I was in my shop when you called.”

My eyes went wide. “I didn’t call. I’d just broken down when you pulled up.”

“I guess the driver who called is farther down the interstate. Better find her.” He got in his car and drove off.

I got on the road too. Only when I was back in Charlotte–well before roll call–did it occur to me: I’d passed plenty of mile markers and exits farther down the interstate, but I never did see the disabled car that had summoned the mechanic.

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