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Houston, Texas

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Blue Collar Angel
July 2010
by Robert Langley

In today’s high tech world we talk on our cell phones and sit at our computers to shop, email and work. Our GPS tells us how to get where we are going and you can easily get through the average day without ever touching an old-fashioned dollar bill. All this makes it easy to forget that just about everything we touch or eat required a gear, a wheel and some grease to produce. Behind each of those is a guy or a gal in a blue shirt with their name on it. When one of those gears sheers a tooth or the wheel goes flat neither code nor accounting principles will get the world turning again. It takes a guy in a blue shirt. On the long trip to North Carolina for week of rivers I was recently reminded of just how true this is.

We left late afternoon Thursday and headed east on I-10. As we approached Hammond, Louisiana my gas gauge was getting low and it was getting close to 10:00 pm, so I pulled off the road to get gas. As I started to slow and apply the brakes my truck started to make a sound reminiscent of an 18 wheeler down shifting. Using as little brake as possible I limped into the gas station-convenience store, the front end bouncing the whole way. Something was not good! As I pulled in, not quite making it to the gas pump, I looked up to see a couple moving towards me. Before I could get out of the truck, Wayne (his name was on his shirt) was already under the front end of my truck attempting to diagnose the problem. Within what seemed like less than five minutes he had the left front tire off and had ascertained that the bottom bolt on my brake caliper had fallen out and the caliper was swinging free by a loose top bolt. I was lucky to get into the gas station!

The auto parts stores were all closed and I was starting to plan where I could have my truck towed for the night. Wayne was apologizing for being a GM guy and not having Ford parts. I pulled out my cell phone, and Wayne, not willing to give up, made two trips to his house nearby in search of a fix that would get me to a hotel. By the time I could contact my sister to have her husband contact his sister’s son, (the only person I know that lives in Hammond), Wayne had come back from his second trip with a handful of bolts. The third bolt fit! What a moment before had looked to be a day-long ordeal turned into a two hour delay. Wayne then took the time to check the other side to be sure the bolts were tight.

Wayne turned down all of my offers for compensation but he did ask for one thing. Before we left, his significant other scribbled their phone number on my notebook and asked me to call them when we got to where we were going so they would know that we were OK. Wayne and his wife were not particularly clean or well-dressed and I am not sure they were sober but on that night they were my blue-collar angels.