I’ve learned a few things in life, and every now and then I get upset with folks – go figure… I’m human.
And if I get upset, I’ve learned that the way to get my way is to stick to the facts, to be polite, but also be firm, and if I’m clearly right, I don’t take no for an answer.
But I’ve also learned that something that can be more fun than getting my way, is to write a nice note to someone – or their boss, and just let them know the story behind what they did for someone, and how that affected people. In this case, we had a bit of an adventure with our car – and I sent the below note to the folks at Chevron, the brand sold at the one gas station up on top of Snoqualmie Pass. I’ve edited it just a bit for readability and added some links so you can see where it all happened if you’re curious, but otherwise I’ve left it alone. I also removed the actual email address I sent it to because I don’t want them getting spammed from here.
That said, join us in the retelling of an adventure we had back in 1997…
From: Tom Roush
Sent: Tuesday, July 15, 1997 1:17 PM
Subject: Re: Dale, at the Chevron on I-90 at Snoqualmie Pass, in Washington
Something pretty impressive happened a couple of weeks ago, and one of your employees was involved, so I thought I’d tell you a little story…
We were taking our daughter and a friend from our home in Seattle to a church camp near Yakima in our venerable 1982 Buick LeSabre Station Wagon (the Land Yacht edition). It was the parent’s dream trip – kids way the heck in the back jabbering away, but quietly enough so as not to cause any problems, 6 year old munchkin belted securely in the front with us, quietly playing with some toys, luggage in the middle seat. It was great. Kind of like you’d expect to see in one of those old ads with the mother and the father and all the kids happily singing in the car while they’re driving down the road (on Chevron gas (little plug there)…
It was looking rosy.
Side note here: Our car, as big as it is and as many systems as it has, does not have any gauges to tell you the condition of any of those systems. Thus, instead of having a gauge warning you of potential problems, you have lights telling you of suddenly existing problems after the fact.
But then (dramatic music here) 5 miles from the summit, Michael (who had a beautiful view of the dashboard and the idiot lights thereon) saw this large red light come on with the word “TEMP” on it from his booster seat between his mom and me. Being the brilliant little boy that he is, he recognized the situation and said, “It’s overheating!”
The message from the light was confirmed by steam blowing up from under the hood.
I pulled over.
We still had about 120 miles to go, much less get back home.
So, with somewhat limited options, we sat there, with a little waterfall on the right and traffic on the left, while the car cooled down…
I did the typical male thing of poking around under the hood. I got some water from the waterfall to see how hot the engine really was and sprinkled it onto the coolest part (the intake manifold) where it instantly boiled off. Hmm… there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot I could do until the thing cooled down…
So my wife read the funnies in the car, the girls chatted, Michael read a Richard Scarry book.
It could have been better, but it could also have been much worse…
After some time, I started the car, the overheat light flickered out (and there was much rejoicing).
We got going, cranked up the heater to draw heat away from the engine, with the plans of just getting to the top of the pass where we could pull into the gas station to sit and let the car cool off someplace away from the traffic long enough to add some more water and/or antifreeze.
As the “West Summit, 1/2 mile” sign came into view, the overheat light came on again.
It was far more dangerous to pull over there than by the waterfall because the road curved right and the shoulder was almost nonexistent, so I kept going, very slowly, with the idea of just making it to the summit and pulling over at the Chevron station there.
We made it to the exit ramp just as the “check engine” light came on in addition to the overheat one. (Gad I hate those idiot lights!) … The tension in the car – at least the front seat, was getting a little higher than normal, and Michael noticed it. The following could not have been scripted any better for timing…
We’re pulling into the station…
Michael: “Well, one of two things can happen…. One, the engine could blow up -“
Cindy: “Michael, the engine is NOT going to blow u-“
Car: “BOOOM!!! “
Michael: “WOW!… Cool!”
Steam shot up on all sides of the hood, between it and the fenders, it and the windshield, out through the radiator…
One does not make an entrance like that – anywhere – without attracting a bit of attention.
I got out, popped the hood, and after clearing the steam out so I could see, realized that most of our upper radiator hose was, well, gone. Not even ductape could fix this one… (I also noticed that the top of the engine had been steam cleaned to the point where you could eat off it) I wiggled what remained of the hose around and realized my options were simple: “I need to get a radiator hose.” I’d figured I’d go into the store by the gas station, buy a hose, put it on the car, and walk out – well, drive out.
I figured wrong.
Our Buick has an upper radiator hose that was designed by – well, GM… One size on one end, another size on the other end, multiple curves in the middle that have to be…
And nothing in the store fit.
I asked one of the ladies behind the counter if there was a car parts store nearby, to which she replied, “Which direction are you going?”
My initial reaction was, “Uh, I’m not right now…”
She understood, and told me there was a parts store in Cle-Elum to the east about 30 miles, and North Bend, to the west about 20 miles.
Then she realized that one of their employees lived in North Bend and was starting his shift soon, and, “Would you like us to call him? Maybe he can get the part for you…”
With visions of stranded travelers being taken advantage of by these folks, I agreed that they should call. They handed me the phone once they got him, and he sounded very businesslike, asking specific enough questions for me to realize he knew precisely what he was talking about, and then hung up, telling me he’d be on his way in about 20 minutes, and to expect him up there in about 45.
It was with this “stranded traveler” feeling that I called the parts store myself to see what the part would cost, and was told it had a suggested price of around 18.00.
Knowing this, I had some idea of what to expect, and with nothing else to do, I spent my time playing with our son while my wife, our daughter, and her friend read their books and chatted in the car.
A little later, Dale came up with a large plastic bag with the exact hose in it that I needed. I followed him into the store to pay for it, and he handed the receipt over to the folks behind the counter, they charged me the 18.00 plus tax.
I was stunned.
To top it off, they let me pay with a check (we don’t have credit cards) – and I was able to put the hose on the car, fill the radiator with water & antifreeze and go on my way. We drove carefully, and had a slow, but safe and uneventful trip from there on out.
As it was, our six hour trip turned into a 12 hour trip, but as we drove, we saw other stranded motorists on the freeway, many with tow trucks already there, and realized that without Dale’s help, and without the willing cooperative attitude of the staff and management of the station, our trip would have been much longer, and much more “eventful”.
Whoever’s in charge of those folks, please recognize they are performing a valuable service, and are to be highly commended for what they do, for their honesty, their integrity, and their sheer humanity.
As a side note, as I walked out, there was another family stranded up there, their fan motor had burned out, and Dale, in the Chevron station, said he could get another motor for 150.00. This was thought to be rather expensive, until the other stranded motorist found they go for more than 200.00.
Another small deed for him, another family whose life wasn’t turned upside down.
And I sent it off. I never did hear back from them, but I’d hope someone from on high gave Dale and the team up there a pat on the back or something equally nice. Come to think of it, I don’t know if Dale is still working up there, I mean, it’s been almost 20 years, but just in case he gets it – there’s a fellow in Seattle – and his family – who are still thankful for that deed of kindness he did those many years ago.
Take care, folks. Be nice to each other.