Thursday, June 19, 2014

Bob-Bob the Wrecker and Me

A grandson's fond memory.

Photo credit: Pawpaw67 via  flickr cc

It’s almost 8:00 on a Friday night I’m lying on the sofa halfway between sleep and excitement. Will that phone ever ring? I know better than to actually say anything out loud, to give away my impatience. As Bob-Bob, my grandfather has explained, “our good fortune will almost certainly mean someone else’s bad luck.” I can sort of understand his point. After all, there has to be a wreck, or at least a fender-bender for a wrecker to be called out.
At last the phone rings and I’m up and into my coat and shoes before my grandfather can say “yes ma’am” to the 911 dispatcher and repeat the directions to the location of the wreck. Bob-Bob does everything by memory because he can’t read and write.

It’s cold and cloudy outside with that funny smell in the air that usually means it’s going to rain. Bob-Bob flips a switch in the dashboard and the heat comes on with a whirring sound that makes me feel warm as soon as I hear it. My feet get toasted on the floorboard as the rain comes down outside the window in wide, white sheets. Then the radio and the windshield wipers come on and their sounds are added to the mix. It’s too noisy for much in the way of conversation, but that’s okay. Now and then my grandfather clears his throat and makes a comment about the weather and I answer with a “yup.” I’ve learned a lot about the weather from Bob-Bob.

We can see all the red and blue lights long before we actually arrive at the wreck. According to Bob-Bob, years ago, the wrecker drivers used to have to pull people out of the cars but nowadays this is done by the rescue squad before the wrecker is even called. I’m glad. It wouldn’t be much fun to go on wrecker calls if I had to see injured people. Luckily, we only have to worry about damaged cars.

Bob-Bob hauls himself out of the car to talk to the police and I monitor the radio for more calls. One of the policemen comes over and asks me if I have a driver’s license. I grin up at him and he grins back, but I don’t say anything because I have to listen to the scanner.
Soon the police have to leave on another call. Bob-Bob gets out his big flashlight and puts on his rain gear. The car is down an embankment in several feet of water. I can see my grandfather disappear over the side. He has to go down and attach a cable to the car so he can pull it up with a winch. It’s a really dark night, and sort of spooky. I fondle the radio switch in my hand and find myself wishing the police hadn’t left so soon. It seems like forever and a day before I finally see my grandfather’s gray head comes back up over the rise. I watch as my grandfather backs the wrecker up and gets the demolished car onto the wheel lift; then secure it with the tie-down belt. Soon he hops back in the car and we’re off to the auto shop. We parked the car in the crowded back lot. I knew that if we didn’t get another call right away, Bob-Bob would ask me if I wanted an ice cream. He has always liked ice cream even more than I do. I always nodded my head, even in cold weather, because I knew he wanted one and I was his excuse.

Not all wrecker nights are the same of course; sometimes we get one call right after another with hardly a break, right into the morning hours. Sometimes it’s really hot, or even snowing. That’s what makes it fun. You really don’t know what will happen on wrecker nights. I look over at Bob-Bob eating his ice cream, still in is rain gear. You’d think a person might catch pneumonia from being in that cold water on a winter night, but Bob-Bob hardly ever even gets a cold. Wrecker people are tough.

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