Breakdown On A Texas Highway
ON I-35 NEAR COVINGTON, Texas -- Michael and I passed a Suzuki Forenza broken down on the side of the highway. A little further down the road, we saw its owners, walking under a sadistic Texas sun, lugging their belongings in a suitcase, a bucket and two bulging bags.
We pulled onto the shoulder behind them.
“Do you need a ride?” I yelled out the passenger side window, hoping to be heard over the groan of passing vehicles.
The couple stopped, glanced at the road between them and the next exit and decided, “Yes.”
Michael and I made room for them in the backseat, throwing our suitcases in the trunk and sweeping away the garbage we had accumulated from eating our last few meals in the car. We apologized for the mess (we hadn’t expected company) and then drove them to the closest gas station.
On the way, we learned they were Deborah Becker and Sean Montgomery. She’s a nurse and he treats waste water. They had been driving home to Austin, which was still about two-and-a-half hours away, when smoke started curling out of the car’s hood and black dots of liquid, possibly oil, sprinkled the windshield.
“Forenza stands for 'it catches on fire,'” Deborah said. “Smoke poured out of every orifice.”
They had been saving money to buy a new car, but expected it would replace Deborah’s old Dodge, not the Forenza, which was a 2006 and had only 66,000 miles on it.
But that's how quickly plans can sometimes change, how quickly financial hurdles can arise. In the time it takes to drive home, the unexpected can happen, and suddenly bills add up where there were none. The couple, who had saved about $2,000 toward a new car, said they weren’t sure if it was going to be worth salvaging the Forenza. For that reason, they had decided to lug all their belongings with them. They considered the possibility that they might never see the Suzuki again.
“It’s going to sting,” Deborah said,
“But we’re both employed,” Sean added.
“The thing is, whatever the sting is, we’re going to have to take it and move on,” Deborah said.
Their car may have broken down, but the couple showed no signs of doing so themselves. Instead, they hugged and kissed as we said goodbye to them at the gas station, where a relative planned to meet them. They were going to be fine, they said.
Turns out, they had refused six rides before taking one with us.
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