Observer | November 7, 2004
Cassie Phillippi’s little Chevy Corsica rolled up to the stop sign and died. No juice in the alternator. She looked out the window at the cold rain.
She had glanced at the car’s clock just before it blinked off: 11:11, Thursday morning. She was behind the Harris Teeter on the road that wraps around Eastland Mall. Nothing to do but get out and go in the grocery store and call Triple A.
She got back in the car and people started to
pull up behind her and honk their horns. The car didn’t have
any power so she couldn’t turn on her blinkers. She sat there
for a minute and thought, what a miserable
Then the first person knocked on the window. “You all right?” the woman said. “Anything I can do?”
Then somebody else checked on her. Another left a cell-phone number. At least a dozen people came by, different races, mostly women. Cassie said she was fine. The wrecker would be there shortly.
Shortly passed and the wrecker didn't come.
Then a red SUV pulled up to her back bumper. A man got out and walked around.
I’m worried you might get hit, he said. I’m just going to sit behind you for a minute.
He got back in the SUV and turned his blinkers on. He stayed back there for a good half an hour.
The man came back around. Said he had to run an errand at the mall. He raised the hood on Cassie's car so people would know to go around it.
More people stopped to check on her.
After a while the red SUV pulled up again. The man got out and came around. It must be getting cold in there, he said. Why don’t you come on and sit with me.
It had been at least an hour since Cassie's car broke down. She got in the SUV and found out where he had been.
He had gone to get them lunch.
They split some Chick-Fil-A strips and an order of fries and they talked. His name was Victor Stack and he was retired from Duke Power. Thursday was his birthday and he had planned to go fishing, but well, you know, the rain.
Cassie talked about her six kids and 10 grandchildren and how her husband was out of town or he would’ve fixed the car by now.
They sat there in the warm SUV as the cars went around.
Finally, about 1:30, the wrecker showed up. Cassie gave Victor a hug and he headed down the road.
“I’d want somebody to stop if it was my wife,” he said later, on the phone. “I wasn’t in any hurry. You ought to help people when you can.”
“I just couldn't believe what happened in that couple of hours,” Cassie said. “It’s pouring rain, all these people get out of their cars to check on me, and then this man takes all this time. And then we sat in his truck and had a picnic!”
“The human spirit is so beautiful, it’s unreal.”
So here is the news from Eastland Mall: A grandmother’s car breaks down on the road. She sits in the rain for more than two hours waiting for a wrecker to come.
It was a great day.
Reprinted with permission of the Charlotte Observer.