We meet many people on the road, both locals and travelers alike who help us in time of need or distress without expecting a return. Last week of every month I bring you stories from travelers who have experienced kindness on the road and like to share and spread it for the love of travel.
This month’s story has come from Shrinidhi Hande of India.
Over to Shrinidhi Hande.
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This story dates back to June 2008. Back then, I had very little exposure to cars- I had a license, I had driven cars often borrowed from friends and relatives, but had never done multi day road trips or took care of a car like I own it. We didn’t own a car in the family (I don’t own one even today). But I was aware of the concept of Self-drive rentals, where one could rent a car and drive oneself.
In June 2008, I booked a car on self-drive rental with a leading car rental company in Chennai which was also offering self drive cars. Self-drive rentals were not that common back then and not many agencies offered one. I was couple of years into my first job and had a credit card and driving license which are old enough to make me eligible for a self-drive rental (agencies had lots of rules like age limit, how old the driving license should be and so on).
I noticed that the rental company has a few cars on self-drive and we had a 3 day long weekend. A few friends wanted a ride till Bengaluru and another person expressed interest to join me for the road trip. I took the opportunity and booked a car on self drive. Instead of going for cheaper options like Hyundai Getz, I booked the most expensive option on offer- Skoda Octavia Rider that had a rental of about Rs 4500 per day that time.
When I went to collect the car, the rental agency Manager cross-checked my documents twice just to be sure and probably with some hesitation handed me the car keys, after blocking a massive Rs 70000 on my credit card, which was almost the limit I had.
To my disappointment the car was very old. But it was a Skoda nevertheless. We set out from Chennai on Thursday night- I picked up friends and drove towards Bengaluru. There was no stupid speed limits back then and I enjoyed the drive. I dropped few friends at Bengaluru, drove to Mysore, spend a day around and then eventually began the return drive to Chennai. So far, no surprises, no trouble, all going by the book.
On my return journey- Sunday evening at about 6 PM I was somewhere between Krishnagiri and Vellore cruising at high speed. My booking was till midnight, which meant I had 6 hours to cover about 250-300 kms and hand over the car. I was driving on the right most lane (fast lane) and suddenly jolted with a big Thud sound. It took me couple of moments to realize what had happened. Surprisingly Skoda was considerably steady at high speeds despite a flat tyre, but I could sense the vibrations that said all is not well. I pulled over to inspect and was surprised that car did so well with a flat tyre.
This was first time ever I had encountered a flat tyre. I knew in theory what to do in case of a flat tyre- get the jack, raise the car, remove the nuts, remove the flat tyre, get the new tyre from trunk, position it, replace the nuts, tighten them and one should be good to go.
But I had no practical experience. The first step was to use the jack and raise the car. I got totally stuck in this step itself. I had seen bus and truck drivers positioning the jack under the axle and raising it. (Refer photo) My idea was that I should do the same with a car as well. But there was a problem. Cars will have low ground clearance and I had difficulty positioning the jack under the axle and inserting a rod to rotate it (so that it lifts the car). I had a fellow passenger but he also had no clue.
For long time, I was left wondering what is it that I am missing, while I struggled to get the jack under the axle. I started evaluating other options- driving further till next town on a flat tyre, abandoning car and so on. It was beginning to get dark. Many shops including tyre puncture repair shops are usually closed on Sunday afternoon. I didn’t have any internet enabled phone. I was beyond the 50km free replacement range the agency used to offer back then. My options were running out.
At this time a passer-by stopped and enquired. He saw my struggle and offered help. He showed that jack need not be placed under the axle as it is done for buses, instead it can be positioned under the car’s frame itself- like under the driver’s door. This simple thing never struck me and I was too dumbstruck to thank him. Rest of the steps were easy. We quickly removed the faulty tyre, replaced and proceeded with the journey. That person refused any cash and continued on his own.
Since then, I have had flat tyres at least a dozen times during various road-trips. But the first incident is still fresh in my memory. Had it not been for that man that night, I would have been stuck on the highway probably.
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Shrinidhi Hande is a full time IT Professional based in Chennai and a passionate blogger. He has been blogging since 2006 and writes primarily on travel, automobile and lifestyle at his blog eNidhi India . He has a subtle sense of humor and is a brand ambassador of tender coconut water. I wish he soon does his thesis on the subject. 😀
If you have been helped by someone during your travels and want to share your story with the world, feel free to connect with me in comments section.