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A spot of trouble

November 19, 2011

We were coming back through Multnomah Village when the lights on the dashboard went out. “Is everything okay?” “I don’t know.” “We should pull over.” “Yeah, this is why we have triple-A.”

Multnomah Blvd didn’t have much in the way of a shoulder for us to park on, so I turned into a neighborhood that, unfortunately, offered even less; it was narrow, twisty, no sidewalks. I followed it to the left, to the right, the left, right again and saw a light at an intersection up ahead. “There’s a gas station,” someplace where we could park safely. As we idled at Barbur Blvd with SW 30th sloping downhill behind us, the engine died. “Uh oh.”

Portland in November is usually a time of high winds, low temperatures, and heavy rain. This afternoon seemed mild by comparison with temps in the 40s and barely a drizzle coming down. I zipped up my coat, pulled my knit cap down tight, and called Triple-A for a tow. We doubted the driver could show up within the projected thirty minutes and to kill the time we started tossing around ideas for what might have happened to the car. The driver arrived with a flatbed truck ten minutes later.

He was tall with a beard full of winter. His smile went up into his eyes and his hands were rough and stained with automotive oil. He invited us to wait in the cab of his truck and after he loaded the car up onto the flatbed he joined us. We were amazed he’d reached us so quickly and he said he knew all the roads. He’d grown up in Portland. His great grandfather’s farmhouse is still standing in the Hollywood district.

Time-out. For Americans back east it’s no big deal that three generations might share the same town. But for west-coasters it’s pretty surprising. Three generations ago there were only 48 United States and most foods were organic by default.

Old Man Winter used his wily navigation skill to get us across town in about twenty minutes. I was impressed. Along the way he extolled the virtues of Newberg, Oregon, the Super-Mini racing circuit, and the good sense of his children. We delivered the car to Hawthorne Automotive, a parking lot that’s difficult to navigate in a car much less a school-bus sized flatbed, and departed with a friendly handshake and a heartfelt thanks.


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