As we walked back to the car after eating at our favorite local Tex-Mex restaurant, the entire family came to a dead stop and stared at an SUV parked close to ours.
My oldest son spoke first.
“Dad, I think this guy needs a new Plan B.”
I wish I could claim intellectual superiority here, but the truth is I learned this one the hard way when I was much younger (though still old enough to know better). Driving back to Amarillo from Dallas in the middle of the night, one of my tires blew out. I eased to the shoulder of the highway, annoyed at the situation, but confident in my abilities to change a tire as I had changed at least a dozen in the past.
I popped the trunk and pulled out the spare and the jack, but I couldn’t find the lug wrench anywhere. In that moment it occurred to me when I bought the car six months prior, I had made sure it had a good spare, but I’d never checked the jack or the lug wrench. My busted Plan B left me on the side of the road at 1:30am with no lug wrench, and 9 miles away from the closest town.
After walking only a few hundred feet, I caught a break when a car pulled over to offer help. I asked if he had a lug wrench I could borrow. He didn’t, but he volunteered to drive me into town and drop me off at the convenience store where I could maybe buy one. As I climbed into the passenger seat he told me that someone had done this for him once before so he felt obligated to repay the favor. Then, reaching into his center console he said, “I don’t think you’re going to try anything, but just in case…..” He pulled a 9mm handgun from the console and sat it on his lap. Staring straight ahead at the highway as he continued driving, he casually added, “and it’s loaded.”
Small talk is difficult when you have a lump in your throat created by your stomach taking up residence there, but I did the best I could. We made it to the quick shop and they had a 4-way lug wrench. I bought that and some snacks for my new best friend. He wasn’t in a particular hurry to get anywhere so he drove the nine miles back to my car, and once there, insisted on changing the tire himself. The gun stayed in his car.
After the job was done, we shook hands and I tried to give him some money. He refused. “Don’t pay me back,” he offered. “Just help someone else out someday, ok?”
We said our goodbyes, and I watched as he got in his car and drove off. I felt grateful that even though I had blown it, the universe helped me out with a Plan B that night. Especially since the universe also gave me a sneak peek of just how differently that situation could have gone.
These days, I always make sure that all of my family’s vehicles have a good spare tire, a jack, and a lug wrench. And by a good spare, I mean a rim AND a tire.
Later this week, I’ll post a story about how I took my Plan B philosophy to a whole new level earlier this year when I decided to fire myself from my job.
YOUR TURN: What experiences have you had with a Plan B, good and bad? Share your story in the comments section.