My dad has driven a 4x4 SUV his entire time in America. In 1996, he had a Chevy Blazer, and he took it to Firestone for an oil change. The mechanic broke the oil cap, and without telling my dad, quietly slipped into the shop and replaced it.
With the wrong cap.
It was really cold that night, but not cold enough that on his way back from work deep in the Bronx, the cap melted, spilling precious oil into the street. You don’t need to know much about cars to know that without oil, an engine basically explodes. And there he was. A 60 year old man. Alone. At 2am. In the warehouse district of the Bronx. And the temperature just fell under 20 degrees.
My dad says that nobody drives along that road, and since he sets the alarm for his warehouse, no co-worker would be coming his way. My dad was in a tough spot. The nearest phone was probably a mile or so away. Should he get out and brave the cold while he still was warm, or should he try to stay in his car until morning? With both choices a risk for hypothermia.
Or a stroke.
But suddenly, a bright light appeared before him. A car. WHAT? And before my dad could jump out and flag him down, it parked and the driver walked up to him.
"What’s up?" said the young Latino man.
"I don’t know," said my dad, "my car broke down."
The man asked my dad to pop the hood, and a few minutes later he walked back, “Your car is done, we gotta call a truck. Come and wait in my car where it’s warm.”
My dad walked back to the man’s car, a nice car. He figured the young man would drive him to the nearest bodega where he could use a payphone, but instead, the man pulled out a carphone. As my dad watched confused, this was about 8 years before cell phones would be available to all, the man then called the tow truck and gave the address.
My dad offered to get back in his car so the man could leave.
"So you could die in the cold? This truck might take hours. Just wait here."
They sat in silence for an hour and a half. My dad, who has severe social anxiety, didn’t even try to start a conversation, and he said that the young man seemed content to sit there in silence, too.
When the tow truck finally did show up, my dad took out his wallet.
"Please, let me give you money."
The young man just shook his head, “nah, I don’t need your money and I don’t want it. I like helping people.”
"That man was an angel," my dad later told me with tears in his eyes, "He was my guardian angel."
My mom told me that the doctors she worked with had carphones. She said that maybe this person was a doctor.
I kept quiet, but I knew the answer:
He was a drug dealer. A lucrative one at that.
And he liked helping people.