He offered to help

Today I bring you an account of an experience fraught with danger that ended well, with no deaths or injuries, well, no physical ones.

Betsy was taking a turn at the wheel as we drove through the center of Hartford, Connecticut, heading west toward I-81 and what would be the final night on the road of our 11-day trip to New England and back. The time was about 1 p.m. on Sunday, and we were at a place where I-91 and I-84 come together for a few miles, then separate. Multiple lanes were frighteningly busy, with everyone flying along at 70 or so. Suddenly, our engine quit. Well, not totally. We drive a hybrid vehicle, and the gasoline-powered engine quit, but the electric engine took over, and we suddenly were creeping at 35 miles per hour while other frustrated drivers tried to avoid us, swerving, honking and swearing.

We were in the second lane from the shoulder, and Betsy skillfully managed to maneuver to the far right lane and take the next exit, which led to a quiet residential neighborhood. She steered us to a stop along the side of the street, and before we came to a complete stop, a gentleman stopped behind us and stepped out of his Mercedes, offering to help.

His clerical collar told us that he was a minister, no doubt coming from church. In friendly conversation we learned that he serves as pastor of an African Methodist Episcopal congregation. As he and I tried to figure out a solution to our problem, Betsy felt the gas engine kick back into life again. Showering the good pastor with thanks, we slowly started to drive again, cautiously. It took us several minutes and more than a few wrong turns, but eventually we found our way back to I-84 West, and we were on our way again. The car behaved just fine the rest of that day and the next day as we made our way safely home.

Early on our first morning home, I took the car to the dealer for a thorough check-up, and all is fine. So we don’t know what caused our scary incident on that crowded Connecticut freeway, but we were once again reminded of the essential good in people who are willing and ready to take a risk and help a stranger in need.

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