Some people did the right thing for me a few days ago. None of them had to do it; in fact, they could quite easily have decided to never have even met me.
But while we Valley motorists, worried about serial rapists and shooters, keep looking straight ahead, on the road from Tucson on Sunday two sets of people stopped, got out of their cars in 110-degree heat, and helped get me and my sputtering truck running again.
It started with a backup on westbound Interstate 10 near Picacho Peak. After about an hour of creeping along, traffic finally started speeding up. That’s when my troubles started.
Around 65 mph the engine started hesitating and coughing. The gauges all read normal and no dashboard lights flashed, but seconds later, the engine just died.
I drove onto the shoulder, stopped, waited a few minutes and then got it to start. But only another mile or two farther, it sputtered and died again. It made it through an exit to state Route 87, which goes from Picacho to Coolidge, then to the East Valley, Scottsdale and home. The truck started again, but only made it another few miles.
It was only stopped for two minutes when a young couple from among the surrounding cotton fields, Eugene and Carmen, pulled over. They were in the process of cell-phoning a friend who was a mechanic when another car pulled up. It was a fellow named Bobby and his girlfriend, whose name I didn’t get. Actually, I never got anyone’s last name. Bobby saw Eugene and Carmen’s car — he’s a friend of Carmen’s cousin — and stopped.
Bobby’s a truck driver and part-time mechanic who lives half a mile away. Assisted by his brother Eddie, he put new spark plugs in my seven-yearold truck (the old ones were, um, original equipment) — that first we had to buy from an auto parts store in Coolidge, a 28-mile round trip.
I put gas in Bobby’s car to show my appreciation, quite glad that both Eugene and he had pulled over exactly when they did, and that Bobby’s girlfriend was with him.
“I don’t pull over when I’m alone any more, but I just can’t leave people out here in the heat this time of year,” Bobby said. “Sometimes people have kids in the back seat.”
In practice, doing the right thing often means extending oneself beyond routine or comfort zone — for no other reason, perhaps, except that it was how one was brought up, or simply came to believe it to be the right thing.
The previous evening I had seen “Superman Returns.” As Clark Kent, Superman was raised in Smallville, a farm town where helping someone in trouble was just part of everyone’s fabric.
No wonder that Clark grew up to be a hero. He was raised around good people, much like the ones among the fields outside Smallville, Arizona.