I’m back safe and sound from Lakeland. We had a good time and saw a lot of great cars.
The Pontiac, however, is in Sebring, Florida. About an hour into the return trip I looked in the rear view mirror and saw white smoke trailing out the back. We pulled over into the parking lot of an abandoned feed store on U.S. 27, popped the hood, and saw flames coming out of the bottom of the transmission. Luckily we had a fire extinguisher — standard equipment in antique cars — and were able to put it out.
We called AAA and they sent a tow truck. Towing it the 150 miles back to Miami would have cost a small fortune, so I had them take to the AAMCO transmission shop in Sebring, 15 miles — and a lot less money — down the road.
The AAMCO shop is closed on Sundays, but when I called the shop’s number, the manager’s wife answered the phone, put him on the line and he immediately agreed to meet us at his shop, take in the car, and give me an estimate on the repair.
So, there we were, 150 miles from Miami and no way to get home short of renting a car from Enterprise, which is also closed on Sundays in Sebring. Fortunately we had caravaned up to Lakeland with some friends from the car club, and between them we were able to get back to Miami late in the afternoon. Thank you, Manny and Milli, for the ride, and John and Jon for keeping us company until they arrived.
A couple of lessons are learned here. First, always carry a fire extinguisher in your car and make sure it works. Second — and probably the most important — this happened on a Sunday in a small town in central Florida. I will never cease to be amazed by and grateful for the help and generosity of people who went out of their way to help others. In the immediate aftermath of pulling over and finding flames licking up from the bottom of the car, a man in a pickup truck pulled over to render assistance, and he stayed with us until we had things under control. The tow truck driver offered a reduced rate to get us to Sebring. And Troy Williams, the manager of the AAMCO store, came out from his one day off in the week to help total strangers when he could have easily have said no. He also was able to work out a lower price estimate on the repair, and he promised to keep in touch with me as the repairs go along.
It’s really easy to be cynical and pessimistic about the world, especially after the last couple of weeks of infantile behavior on behalf of some of our elected “leaders.” But the reality is that we are by nature kind and caring people, willing to help others who are in need, be it a major disaster like a hurricane or flood, or, in my case, an automotive breakdown on a rural highway in central Florida. My faith in humanity is unwavering.
Note: A special thanks to Bob for showing grace under pressure and being there with the kind of moral support and calm guidance that is really needed in a time like this.