“I knew that I would get the car back on the road. What I did not know was that, for this good deed, I would be closely watched by an unexpected observer.”—Tim Bayer
Won Over By Reality
By Tim Bayer
BRIGHTON New York—(Weekly Hubris)—February 2020—Though there were a number of other vehicles in the turn-out, the two 20-somethings walked up to Emily and me: “We have a flat tire. Can you help us?”
I definitely would help! Like my dad, I had successfully helped stranded drivers a number of times. I knew that I would get the car back on the road. What I did not know was that, for this good deed, I would be closely watched by an unexpected observer.
As a child in the late 1960s, I was with my dad when he stopped his truck in a snow storm to attach a chain and pull a car out of a snow bank. In the summer heat, my dad pulled over and took time out of his day to change a flat tire for another stranded driver. That was what my dad did. Now, this is something I do.
Fast forward from the 1960s in New York to 2018 in Montana. Emily and I were at Glacier National Park driving on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. A sunset storm was rolling through, and produced a rainbow in the valley below. We had stopped on a pull-out to take in the spectacular scene when Piper and Tara approached us about their flat tire.
“Have you changed a tire before?” I asked.
“No, I haven’t,” replied Piper.
“Now is a great time to learn!” I said. “How about this: You get to change a tire and I will provide instruction and help you, if needed.”
This is the approach my dad took with me, and it is very effective because, 1) It accomplishes the task, and, 2) At the same time, the apprentice learns the skill because, as my dad would say, “It’s better to teach someone to fish than to give them fish.”
In Piper’s car was a medium-sized dog. The dog was unruffled while Piper opened the hatch, removed the contents to access the spare and started the steps as I taught her how to change a flat tire. The dog calmly supervised and closely monitored the entire process, like a proud father watching a child skillfully performing a learned task.
While Piper changed a tire for the first time, I asked where she was from.
“I’m from Grand Junction, Colorado,” was her reply.
“My nephew, Mike, lives in Grand Junction with his wife Amanda,” I said. “Amanda grew up in Grand Junction. Do you know Mike and Amanda Bayer?
“Wow, I know exactly who you’re talking about! They have a little son named Leo, correct?
“Yes!” I said.
“I grew up with Amanda and her two sisters. They live down the road from me, and I played softball with them. Also, their parents went to high school with my parents, so we have known them all of our lives. What a small world!”
Very cool! I’m in Glacier National Park, 2,000 miles from New York, helping stranded travelers only to discover they know my nephew and his son because they grew up in Colorado with his wife. I wondered if my dad had ever had such an entertaining motorist rescue story. I will never know, because my dad passed away in 1975, when I was 14, before I started doing my own stranded motorist rescues.
That coincidence makes this an entertaining story. But, what happened next caught me completely unprepared, and will forever fix this moment in my memory.
As Piper successfully completed her first flat tire repair, I again noticed that the dog in the car was still supervising the work.
“Your dog has been sitting calmly in the car just watching us,” I said.
“Yeah, he’s a great dog,” replied Piper.
“What’s his name?”
“That’s Walter,” said Piper.
The others were unaware of my backstory and therefore unaffected by this revelation. However, I was moved. Tears briefly blurred my vision when I learned who had been watching me. Stunned for an instant, and frozen in place, I was still able to speak.
I said, “My dad’s name was Walter.”