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April 7, 2003

The Handy Samaritan

The three of us - my wife, our daughter, and I - were making a trip up to visit my mother for the weekend. Grandma doesn't get to see her first grandchild enough, so we decided to seize the opportunity and make a trip up while nothing else was planned. We packed, gassed up, and headed off. For once, we were only slightly behind schedule, but still had enough time to make our journey without being late.

Ever since we got the truck we have now, I have always had faith in its reliability. When it came into our possession it already have 135000km on the odometer. With some vehicles, I wouldn't dare touch them at that mileage, but having done my research and trusting Asian car companies as I do, I knew that 135K was nothing to be worried about. Despite the amount of use it had seen, all the bells and whistles still worked perfectly. The only item that didn't work was the driver's side door sensor, which I managed to fix in about 5 minutes once I got around to remembering to try. This faith continued as we racked up the mileage to the current reading of 185K. Nothing's broken, nothing about the way it acts makes me want to worry - I trust the truck.

You can image my total surprise and absolute dismay, then, when during typical Toronto stop-and-go congestion a billow of white erupted out from under our hood and the temperature gauge skyrocketed. Something was obviously highly wrong. Fortunately, we were next to a section of pavement that was blocked off with pylons for nearby construction, and managed to park pretty much in the middle of traffic in a small island of safety. I turned the engine off, put on the 4-way flashers, and put the hood up - all things you're supposed to do to make it obvious to passers-by that you're in need of assistance.

Not being a complete idiot when it comes to Things Under The Hood, I decided to at least take a look and see what was going on. Sure enough, when I opened the hood a fine white spray of coolant greeted me, the result of a small hole that had somehow developed on the upper radiator hose. Slowly but surely my truck sat there on the side of the road losing both coolant and pressure, spraying day-glow green fluid over half of the engine bay. Although the malfunction was a very small one, it was enough to immobilize the truck. So there we sat.

I figured that with five lanes of traffic, three of the 401 on one side and two merging in from the 427 on the other, that one of the hundreds of cell phone users passing by every minute would be kind enough to alert the police or at least a gypsy tow truck operator. After sitting around for about fifteen minutes like this without anybody so much as slowing down to gawk, I rooted through my emergency kit and found a bright orange CALL POLICE sign. I adhered it to the inside of the rear window as directed, and waited again. Perhaps the tint on the rear window was too dark or overly reflective, but once again nobody came to our aid. After ten minutes I rearranged the sign to the outside of the truck, anchored underneath the rear hatch's window. Unfortunately, after only five minutes it became obvious that it wouldn't work either, as the wind was folding it up and obscuring most of the lettering. As one last attempt, I anchored it again with the rear hatch window, but this time angled across the window such that the left side was anchored underneath the top of the window, and the right side at the bottom. This time there was no excuse.

Amazingly, there was still no police, still no tow truck, nothing. I started to wonder if Toronto really was a heartless bunch of inconsiderate boobs that don't pay attention unless there's been an interesting accident.

Luckily, someone finally did stop after having been stranded for 25 minutes. He pulled up in front of us in an old mini school bus that had been boarded up and held together with duct tape, vapour barrier tape, and probably a lot of spit, grease, and bailing wire. He offered his cell phone to me to call a tow truck, and even got out his business card holders and started flipping through to see if he could find the name and number of a local towing company for us.

I mentioned to him what the trouble under the hood was, and he paused a second and said, "You don't need a tow truck." He looked at the burst hose, and assured me that it could be fixed. He jumped back into his bus and re-emerged with a large jug of water, a screwdriver, and a knife. With his tools, my pliers, and our combined water holdings and the remainder of my washer fluid, the truck was up and running in ten minutes. All he had done was borrowed enough hose from the good side of the hose, cut off the part with the hole, and shoved it back on. It was a temporary fix, but more than good enough to get us moving.

I immediately headed back the way we came, towards a car dealer I knew of that was very close. Although they didn't have a replacement hose in stock, they kindly looked at the repair job, topped up the coolant, and assured me that it was probably good enough to get me home. Sure enough, it got us home and even around town for another day until I could get the hose from a local dealer.

And what of the kind man who saved me a whack of cash and aggravation in towing expenses? He never did offer his name. After he had performed his small miracle under my hood I asked if I could give him something, or at least get his name. He paused a second, and went back to his bus. He came back with two flyers, and simply said, "Pass these around." I thanked him again, and he left.

I still don't know his name, but I now know he's a member of Quality Builders. Quality Builders will do just about anything you need done to your home, from siding to waterproofing, chimneys to tree removal, decks to additions, and more, at affordable prices. They serve the Golden Horseshoe from Newcastle to Niagara Falls. (Why he was on the 401 in Toronto I don't know, but I'm glad he was!) If this man is at all representative of the care they show for their customers, I can highly, HIGHLY recommend these guys. You can contact them at 416-803-3540 from Toronto, 905-322-2383 from Niagara Falls, or toll-free at 888-836-7633. They have a website listed at http://www.geocities.com/qualitybuilders, but it was not available last time I checked.

If you see a mini school bus anywhere between Niagara Falls and Toronto that's boarded up and taped half to death, give the driver a thumbs up, and if you can buy him lunch for me. (I'm good for it - really!) Although our travel plans were quashed, he certainly made what could have been a truly awful day a lot brighter. Thank you, mystery builder!

mr.ska
nft@myrealbox.com  


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