En route home, after an evening beach bonfire near San Francisco, my friend's car was running low on fuel. As we headed toward the nearest gas station, our VW rear passenger side tire struck a curb. Because our focus was fuel, we thought little about the bump.
The nearest service station was closed as we pulled up to the pump, but gas was still available for purchase. I stepped out of the car only to hear a loud hissing sound coming from the back.
Immediately finding the source, I bent down to cover the punctured opening with my finger, to stop the escaping airflow. My friend came around to put gas in the tank and was alarmed to see the rapidly flattening tire.
One pump over, a man popped his head around the corner asking if we needed help. In lieu of anything else, he suggested we put a band-aid on the tire and head to the next service station which he remembered as being open a few hours before. Leaving us with these aimless suggestions, he wished us luck and pulled away.
I continued standing with my finger pressed against the air leaking tire.
Fortunately my friend had a tire repair kit, the kind where you jam a piece of rubber into the hole with a screwdriver to stop the leak. This at least gave me a break from standing bent over in such an uncomfortable position. As we debated whether our rough fix was stable enough to continue the 40-mile journey home, a couple approached to ask if we needed help.
They had been enjoying the night air, walking their dogs along the beachside. Although he had a bad back, the man offered to change our tire. His concerned, pregnant wife cautioned him not to do any straining as he sorted through the parts, pulling out the jack and irons. Unfortunately, he determined that the VW wheel lock key was missing. Resigned that he couldn't get the tire off, he suggested we call a tow truck for help.
With the cool fog beginning to roll in around us, we sat in the car, waiting more than an hour for the tow truck to arrive. While we sat, three different scavengers dug through the nearby garbages, scouring for bottles and maybe a little food.
About five minutes before the tow truck arrived, a modern day knight in shining armor pulled up, riding a red streaked motorcycle. Likely curious why we were just sitting, the rider motioned at us to ask if the station had gas. In our answer, he promptly recognized we needed help and insisted on changing our tire. We tried to explain the missing wheel lock as he began work on our tire.
Unlike the last guy, our motorcycle marvel had experience working with VW's and he was easily able to find the wheel lock to begin the replacement process. The tow truck driver, an A's fan (best team in the Bay!), arrived in time to lend his tools and complete the repair, allowing us time to thank our good samaritan.
An interesting side note, we discovered two of our helpers were actively practicing in their respective religions. The Christian couple with the dogs and the Jewish bike rider who had just ended his fast for Rosh Yom Kippur (he even shared a powdered gingerbread cookie with us -- delicious!). I was encouraged by how many good people came to a stranger's need on a dark night. The next time I see someone that needs help, I know I'll definitely stop by to see what I can do.