It snowed last night. Not heavily, but enough to make the roads slick. Coming back from Williamstown this afternoon, I passed a minivan than had run off the road about three miles from my house. A very unhappy looking man was yelling at his wife behind the wheel as he pushed on the front bumper. I put on my flashers, pulled my truck over and stopped.
As I walked over to the van to think about what tactics we might use – sand? cardboard under the wheels? – another truck pulled over just down the road from me. Two guys got out in full Berkshire county uniform – hooded flannel shirts, Carhartt jackets and pants, worn workboots. I looked down and realized I was in uniform as well, and almost laughed out loud as I realized that I’ve become part of a completely adhoc, but very effective, road rescue squad.
This happens to me at least a dozen times a year. I stop to help someone who’s run off the road, and before I’ve put my shoulder to the bumper of the car, there’s two or three of my neighbors, who’ve stopped their trucks to lend a hand as well. Protocol seems to be that you need four rescuers per car, more for trucks – if there’s already half a dozen by the roadside, you can drive past without feeling guilty.
It took about 15 seconds to decide on tactics – with four, we figured we could push it out of the ditch easy – and about 45 seconds to wait for a gap in traffic to start pushing. Five seconds of pushing and she was back on the road, and we were back in our trucks.
I understand there’s a running controversy to our north in Vermont about whether one should take money for digging cars out of ditches in the winter. Some advocate that it’s okay to take money from tourists, though never from locals. Others argue that the neighborly thing to do is to dig everyone out and assume that the good karma comes around.
Down here, I’ve never heard anyone ask a driver for money. Perhaps it’s because we all hate the local towing company, a bad bunch of guys who have the contract for impounding vehicles for most police departments around here – hitchike up to their mountain hideout to bail your truck out from those SOBs and you’ll develop a lifelong desire to deny them any future business. Anyway, I’ve never asked and no motorist has ever offered. I believe I’d be a little hurt if someone did.
As we walked to our trucks, one of the guys said, “‘Tis the season.” It ’tis. When I got home, I put two sandbags in the truckbed, two cardboard boxes in the back of the cab, and checked that my towrope wasn’t too frayed. For the next five months, if you own Carhartts, you’re on call, and it’s only right to be prepared.
(Go UMass! Beat Montana!)