The car I was driving decided to konk out in the middle of intersection in Venice a few days after Christmas. It spewed smoke and water all over the pavement, but I was able to coax it through the intersection and park on the wrong side of the street.
I called AAA, and the ever-helpful people on the other line said a tow would arrive in about 40 minutes. My kids offered to pick me up, but since the tow was close, I told them I’d hang with the car.
Good decision, as a DOT parking enforcement officer drove by and wanted to write me a ticket for being parked on the wrong side of the street. I explained my dilemma, showed her my AAA card and she drove off. A mere 20 minutes later, a different DOT car drove by and that officer also wanted to give me a ticket. Luckily, the tow truck pulled up at about the same time, and the second DOT harbinger of good cheer drove off.
The tow driver was beyond cheerful and asked, “How are you doing today?” I looked at him and responded grumpily, “Oh, I don’t know . . . my car broke down in the middle of the street and I have to have it towed.”
He responded, “But it is a beautiful day, I am here, and you are safe.”
His enthusiasm for all that was good became infectious. I started thinking about the good aspects of where I was. I had been refereeing a soccer game in Redondo and the car could have broken down on the 405 Freeway, which could have had disastrous results.
And it was indeed a beautiful day, following the latest rainstorm. The driver, who was from Iran and had fought in Afghanistan, slapped a light on top of my car, and I noticed that it contained a mini-American flag.
I hopped into the tow truck and thought, “Now that’s lucky, how many times have I actually gotten to ride in a tow truck?” As we drove along Pacific Coast Highway, I was able to admire the hillsides, the mountains in the distance and the ocean as it crashed along the shore. I was reminded that when you’re driving you don’t have much of a chance to enjoy the beautiful sights.
As we drove up Temescal Canyon Road, the driver was filled with compliments for how beautiful the area was, the hills, the trees, the large houses. He told me how lucky I was to live here.
Then, ugliness returned in the most awful fashion. A man, walking by on the sidewalk, told the driver, who had his window down, that he should not have the American flag flying.
The driver and I were both taken aback. The driver tried to explain that he was an American, this was his country. The man shouted that the flag should not be on a car and that the driver was “stupid” and didn’t know what he was doing.
I kept telling the driver to ignore this man. I apologized for the Palisades resident, whom I didn’t know. Was this resident anti-American or a racist?—I don’t know.
I just know I was sick that such a cheerful, kind man, such as my driver, was attacked by someone who considered himself superior.
I don’t what to hear from residents who will say, “Well, ever since Trump became president . . .” as a way of defending this Palisadian’s comments. Don’t blame a political figure, don’t blame a Hollywood star and don’t blame your sister, “Well she made me do it.”
I was in shock, I tried to get the driver away from this vile man. I kept saying, “don’t listen to him, don’t listen to him.”
The mechanic came over as the tow driver was putting the car down and yet the man on the sidewalk kept saying nasty things. The tow driver eventually pulled out and the awful man left.
The next day, I spoke to LAPD Officer John “Rusty” Redican about what I could have done. He said we all experience “vapor lock,” which means we’re so stunned we don’t know how to react. Basically, the bystander did not commit an arrestable offense. Redican told me he believes that good people have good come back to them and the tow driver will be okay.
Bill Bruns wisely said, “Maybe we all need to rehearse just what we might say to somebody who goes on an unjustified verbal attack like this.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”
I’m still not sure what I’ll say if this happens again (and I hope it never does) but, “STOP! Go away!” are three words I could use.