Once I thanked Headley and got to the Waffle House, the employees sensed an unfortunate scenario. I told them the story as I was jotting down all of my options: 1. Tow the car to a car shop. 2. Ditch the car and get a rental. 3. Continue hitchhiking and hope the puppy will be a benefit to getting a faster turnover in rides. 4. Call a scrapper and recoup some of the lost money and apply that to some method of getting home. After hearing my story, feeling moved, and seeing my expensive options written out in my notebook Suzy, my waitress and cook behind the counter, reminded me that I was out of city at 1 AM in a Waffle House. I asked what she meant. Suzy told me that the “country bumpkins” are finishing their beers after a long night of working on cars and their fields. EUREKA.
Her subtle hints and cues led me to my solution. In order to stay true to the “Spirit of Hitchhiking” I decided to continue relying on the good will of others. I would wait until the hillbillies strolled into Waffle House to ask for help from the greasiest among them. Within the hour I was outside with Whit when an old, long-bearded man clad in khaki shorts that drooped to his shins came outside after talking to Suzy and said through lips pursed around an unlit, unfiltered cigarette, “I he’r you have a prob’m.” “Yes sir, I do. My car is on the side of the high…” He interrupted, “I’ll fix ya up. See you in the mernin’.”
Unfortunately, I didn’t see him at 5 AM or 7 AM when Whit and I woke up, but probably because I was tucked behind the neighboring produce shop.
I found the morning shift Waffle House employees huddled out back smoking. With Whit cradled in my arms, I interrupted their chitchat and immediately began telling the story of Whit. All of the girls shot their eyes to Jeremy, a younger, tatted, roughneck, who quietly agreed to help us out.
We drove to his house to bass-heavy Toby Keith pumping through his after-market sound system, picked up his tools, then drove to mile marker 215 on I-65 where he determined that he didn’t have the necessary gear to fix the alternator belt, “I can’t get the job done, but I know the man who can.” We drove 20 minutes back to town. At a local car shop we found Jeff (probably my favorite character of this whole story), a 70-something year old man with a Confederate flag doo-ragged around his head, cut off tee shirt, and front six teeth missing. He drove separately and met us back at the car where he silently, greasily fixed the belt in 30 minutes. Jeremy left after a handshake exchange and Jeff said that I needed to meet him at the shop so he could get paid.
Back at the shop I met the owner, Kenny, a giant of a man whose hands were fat and could’ve crushed mine if he shook too hard. He told me that I owed $120; I only had $83 and a story. I asked if he cared to hear about the dog that was politely begging him to hear her story from my lap, he agreed. Slouched back in his La-Z-Boy chair amidst grease and oil, his giant hand struggled to admit the tear from his eye, “I’ll take whatever’s in your pocket.” I gave him $83 and took his card and insisted to pay him in full the next time I was in Montgomery.
I finally was headed north…. Maybe?
Whit and I were predictably pulled over somewhere outside of Nashville by a female police who had a drug-sniffing dog with her. We prayed that the dog would not investigate my shit Honda for fear that somewhere in the abysmal trunk that was full of old, crusty clothes, shoes, CD cases, and a library-stolen biography of Jay-Z would be loads of needles, crack, or paraphernalia. The dog didn’t join her, but after I opened the passenger side door, which doesn’t open from the outside, she threatened ticketing me for an expired license plate.
“I assume you like dogs. Would you like to hear how I got this one?” I said. Her interest piqued and she agreed. She thanked me for surely saving Whit’s life, but took my license and the title to the car back to her truck regardless. When she returned she removed my license plate to be destroyed and handed my paperwork back, releasing me knowing that I was innocent and a good dude. Whit wins again.
As a driver for Uber and Lyft, a phone is necessary to the job. Without a phone but still needing a job, I took Whit to several bars, asked to speak with the managers, and convinced them to walk outside to my car with me where I could introduce them to my pup and offer the story of Whit. I was offered three jobs using this method. Get a dog and introduce yourself to hiring managers: there’s your job-hunting hint of the day.
As more stories in Whit’s life surely develop, you will be first to hear. Thank you for staying engaged in this four-part story. It was fun to be a part of, write, and hear your feedback. Several people have asked me what my next adventure will be. I can only respond that I am dead set on paying down tens of thousands of dollars in school debt, learning calligraphy, and training the world’s best dog. Stay tuned for interesting insights.
A bit of poetry/a thought:
Do I think, speak, feel in vain?
I sacrifice my doubt for faith, hope, and love.
Paddling for 11 hours at a time, not leaving your boat, cramped legs/ass/back/shoulders/arms, bored to death there’s sometimes one thing left to do: pray. You hate that it’s the last thing that your mind comes to, but you love that it came to that. I spent time in the Seminary, have been to the tops of mountains, have seen holy sunrises, but some of my best prayers were on the River when it was the last thing I could do. Why? My mind had already occupied itself with all its million other “concerns” and had finished sorting through them that finally there was nothing left to think about…except faith, hope, and love.