In August of 2018, we visited the archeological site, Grimes Point, near Fallon, Nevada. It was hot and dry. So dry that when I slapped a mosquito off the back of my husband’s leg, the blood dried on my fingers in milliseconds.
We had been guzzling water since we arrived in Nevada, yet we never felt hydrated. We were hot and thirsty, but we weren’t worried. We had plenty of water in the car.
As we left Grimes Point, we decided to pull over to the Petroglyphs Trail. It’s a nice spot with shaded picnic tables and a paved parking lot. We walked the short trail and then headed back. It was evening and we were ready to return to our hotel.
I had the car keys. I had driven us over from Grimes Point, all of one mile. I was feeling smug that I finally had had a turn at the wheel. I opened the truck of the rental car, ditching the bag in which I carried water. The keys were in my way so I rested them in a groove on the inside of the trunk, at eye-level, while I fussed with our stuff. Once satisfied I had made everything more neat and tidy, I closed the trunk.
It popped open.
Maybe it was the heat. Maybe it was dehydration. Maybe it was just the “out-of-sorts” feeling I had had since arriving in Nevada a few days before. Whatever the reason, I lost my temper and pushed the lid down hard until it latched.
Then I froze. I had just locked the keys in the trunk.
I screamed a blue streak of four-letter words.
I tried to open the trunk with my fingers, hoping, praying that it hadn’t truly latched. But it had and I could sense it mocking me for being so dangerously stupid. I screamed again.
I had locked us out of the car which held all our water and snacks, our jackets, my husband’s eyeglasses.
Greg was walking toward me. He wasn’t running because he had immediately surmised what I was screaming about and knew there was no point in hurrying.
We were about one hundred yards from Highway 50, the Loneliest Road in America. We were out in the middle of nowhere, in an unforgiving arid landscape, several miles from Fallon. Our cell phones were useless. Fallon is Verizon country; our cell phones were AT&T.
In another climate, we would have just started walking. In this climate, that wasn’t an option. Not without water.
Greg was all calm and reason. He didn’t scold me. He didn’t tell me I was stupid. I was already doing that anyway. He was confident that we’d be okay. First things first, he said. Let’s see if we can hitch a ride to Fallon.
We went out to the highway and Greg coached me on how to stand and hold out my thumb. Several people passed us. I lost hope very quickly. I didn’t think we looked like criminals, like a Bonnie and Clyde just waiting for some Good Samaritan that we could rob. We’re both in our sixties, a couple of gray hairs in deep trouble. But who picks up hitchhikers these days?
After what seemed like an endless twenty minutes, a beat-up old truck with pine logs sticking out its back end slowed and pulled over. Greg got to the truck first and had explained our situation by the time I hobbled up. The driver, a middle-aged man with long wispy blond hair, welcomed us in.
“You looked kind of desperate,” he said when Greg told him about all the other cars that had passed us by. I stayed quiet, trying to keep down the panic that still filled my chest. Greg made small talk with the driver, discussing how Fallon had changed over the years, the Fallon Naval Base, planes. I missed most of their conversation, too preoccupied with what we would do next.
Thanks to my overactive imagination and steady diet of horror stories and crime novels, I also worried if the driver might be an incarnation of Ed Gein … except he seemed too friendly and laid back to be a serial killer. Then again, so was Ted Bundy. But Ted Bundy was handsome and our driver had seen better days. I digress.
The driver suggested we either go to the Sheriff’s Office or the Fire Department. He dropped us off on Main Street and wished us luck. We were effusive with our thanks, and I imagine he would enjoy telling his friends about the two senior citizens he had picked up that day.
We set out for the Sheriff’s Office which was not easy to find. Then Greg confessed that he really didn’t want to get law enforcement involved. Better to leave them as a last resort.
Across the street we saw fire trucks. Bingo! Just as we turned another corner to find an entrance, a siren went off. A door opened and a group of rather fit and handsome men filed out in a hurry. We ignored them and they ignored us and as the last man left, Greg managed to grab the door. We slipped in, hoping someone was still inside. No one. Zip.
I hustled back outside. I started calling to the men who were now suited up and coming back to get into their trucks, Greg behind me saying it was too late. They ignored me until one came out and said, “Can I help you, ma’am?” Greg explained our situation and when he said our car was at Grimes Point, the young man winced.
“We’ve got a call. We have to go, but I’ll let you inside. One of the guys in there will help you.” We thanked him, got back into the building where at least it was cool and there was potable water. We waited.
We debated waiting at the station versus going back out to look for a phone. Greg wanted to find the CVS, confident that they would sell Tracfones. There were no landlines in the fire station that we could find. One of the fireman had left his cellphone behind, but we didn’t want to touch it. We wanted our own phone. Greg suggested that I wait at the fire station while he went in search of a cell phone. I nixed that. No way was I going to let him out of my sight.
We set off, figuring that we could always come back to the fire station.
We found the CVS. They didn’t sell phones. The young woman at the counter began to list all the other stores that did sell phones when I interrupted her. “We don’t have a car. Our car is locked at Grimes Point. We need a way to call for help.” I spied a landline near her. “Can we use your phone?”
For the next forty-five minutes, Greg worked with a roadside assistance service. My heart lifted when Greg turned to me and said it sounded like they could find someone local to unlock our car. I almost collapsed with tears when he said, “He can be here in ten minutes.”
We agreed to all the fees, understanding we would be set back by a couple of hundred dollars. Considering the alternative — breaking a car window — it was a small price.
In less than ten minutes, the tow truck driver arrived. He was cautious, even slightly suspicious, but when Greg agreed to all the costs, he let us both in.
On the ride to Grimes Point, my husband made small talk. I even chimed in a couple of times. John was full of stories. Back in his late 20s, he was looking forward to a great military career when he was hit by a drunk driver and left paralyzed for a long time. No one thought he would ever walk again, but look at him now, he said, thirty-some years later and he’s doing just fine.
Finally, we got to the parking lot at Grimes Point.
As John plied his trade, he gave us a lesson on how to properly break into a vehicle without scratching the paint. He popped the door open, Greg found the release button for the trunk, and the trunk lid lifted.
I ran to the trunk, found the keys right where I can put them, and clasped them to my chest as if they were Rosary beads. I looked up and there was John, backlit by his headlights, his head thrown back as he laughed with joy.
You can imagine how the rest of the night went. We thanked John and Greg slipped him a tip. We got back to Reno and then I finally cried, able to release all the fear I had felt.
The silver lining of this experience was how complete strangers were willing to help us.
- The truck driver who thought we “looked kind of desperate” and gave us a lift into town.
- The two women at the CVS who let us use their phone and kept reassuring us that it would all work out.
- John who could have blown us off or charged us a hell of a lot more than he did.
Being white senior citizens probably worked in our favor. Maybe. Maybe not.
Maybe there are people out there who just see that you’re kind of desperate and need help and so they help. Without question. Without judgment.
There’s bad people in the world, but there are good people too. Greg and I met four of them that night in Nevada.