110 Degrees and No Shade

by Shawna M.Thayer
Arizona, USA

I moved to Phoenix, Arizona in 2000 for graduate study at Arizona State University. It’s seemed to me that “big city” people were less friendly and helpful than the Wisconsin folk I grew up with. People’s crankiness got worse as temperatures rose, too, so summers in Arizona weren’t particularly pleasant.

Until a friendly stranger proved me wrong a few days ago.

Last Wednesday, the first day of September 2004, I was driving home from work with my baby boy sleeping in the back seat. My rear right tire blew out at 70 miles per hour. Luckily I pulled off the road safely, but it was 110 degrees. The car’s AC was running, but with no shade, it was warming quickly.

It would take roadside assistance over an hour to arrive. I thought about children getting too hot in a car, and if a car whizzing by would hit us.

Now, I can change a tire under less stressful situations. In fact, my father wouldn’t let me get my driver’s license until I could change a tire completely on my own. But with a 6-month-old infant and cars cruising by so fast and close, I didn’t know what to do. I was frazzled and frustrated.

Just then, a bright yellow motorcycle pulled behind me. The driver pulled off his helmet and came to my door. In his early 20’s with blond hair and big blue eyes, he smiled, “Do you need help changing your tire? I can help if you have the equipment.”

110 Degrees and No Shade Though I was wary about such situations, something in his face assured me he was a genuine and kind person. A mechanical engineering student at ASU, Justin said he didn’t get many opportunities to use his skills, so was happy to help.

“Justin” wouldn’t let me touch a thing. When I asked what I could do, he said to pop the car’s hood so the radiator wouldn’t overheat (the AC was on for the baby). I was so frazzled I had trouble with the latch, so he found it. I would’ve felt worse if Justin hadn’t been so kind. “Why don’t you just wait inside the car and keep your baby happy?”

With the spare on, Justin made sure I knew where the nearest tire place was, even offering to follow me there. When I tried to give him money in gratitude, he absolutely refused. “I’m happy I could help. Keep your money.” I tried again, saying I would’ve paid more in towing charges, but he wouldn’t budge. I thanked him over and again. He waited behind me until I merged onto the freeway, and waved as I exited at the first ramp.

This young man was a lifesaver to me on Wednesday. I’m so grateful he came to my aid. I’d been sure that the only really nice people resided in the Midwest, but now I know good people are everywhere! I know I’ll help someone else in the future the way Justin selflessly helped me.

Originally published as HeroicStories #545 on September 3, 2004

7 thoughts on “110 Degrees and No Shade”

  1. Having also grown up in Wisconsin and lived in Tucson during summer heat, I can easily understand how the author was terrified of being stranded in the desert heat. Thankfully people like “Justin” can be found all over the world.

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  2. This story reminded me of July 1992 after I graduated from the University of Utah. My daughter and I were driving back to Florida but took the route to Moab, Utah rather than the interstates. We were halfway to Moab when I also had a flat tire. When we got out to change it, 2 cars and a truck pulled over and all 5 young men offered to help. They wouldn’t let us do a thing either and gave us the name of a tire company that sold affordable tires. None of the men would accept any money eiher stating it was the least they could do. They gave me a feeling of comfort and security’s that assured me the long trip home to Florida would be just fine. I always felt they were angels sent by God.

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  3. People often mis-understand motorcyclists. Their impressions are usually based on what they see in the movies. Most motorcyclists are really very friendly and willing to help, if people would only give them the chance.

    John in Miami, Oklahoma

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  4. Bless you, Justin, wherever you are! You did a wonderful act of kindness by helping this lady and her baby, when the tire blew. I hope you’re having a great life!

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  5. This reminds me of the time in 1980 when my father and I were just outside Page, Arizona. My car had flat tire and the spare tire was flat also. A woman stopped and drove my father into town to the tire repair store. They came with a truck and made it so the car could be driven to their store. We were able to get a new set of tires on the car. All this happened as we were about to enter Page for the night. Therefore, we did not have any delay in our trip.

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  6. Years ago I was on my way to bow hunt and passed a young lady standing next to her car with a flat tire on a highway south of Tulsa, Oklahoma. I turned around and got her tire changed, no big deal I thought but I noticed that she was clutching a little collapsible umbrella the whole time. I didn’t put it together until the next day: Me, tall and white, dressed in camouflage head to toe, driving a pickup truck in redneck America. Her, smaller, black, stuck on the side of the road with traffic whizzing past completely ignoring us. We talked a bit while I was working. She might have been a year or two older than my daughter. I hope I poked a hole or two in whatever preconception she may have had.

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  7. Also had a blowout, but on Rt 80 in NJ. It was just a week before my duedate, largely pregnant with my 5th child. Had my 4 other children (terrified) in the car and my oldest was helping me empty the trunk of all the baby furniture we had just gotten out of grandma’s attic. A wonderful long-haired, leather-clad man, with his woman on the back, stopped and changed our tire, helped us pack everything in the back again, and sent us along, refusing any $ I offered. He just said “pass it on, man” and wished us well with the baby! He was truely a lifesaver! They are out there!

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