My first experience in a tow truck was on a family trip to Disneyland and back.  We were about 40 miles south of Bakersfield when the tranny went out in our '72 Skylark.  My parents had AAA, and we waited 4 hours for a tow truck.  Fortunately, we were on our way home from Disneyland.  Myself, my two brothers, and my parents all squeezed into the cab with the tow truck driver, in 100+ degrees, no A/C, and drove the 40 miles to Bakersfield.  Not fun.  The driver was nice, however.  I remember him taking us to a motel after we dropped the car off at a tranny shop, and we got 2 days in the pool while the car was being fixed.

3 adults and 3 kids (ages 10, 11, and 12) in the truck. Can we beat that?

Years later, I was working swing shift and got a police rotation call on US 26 westbound out of Portland.  There is a steep climb leaving the downtown area, through a forested area, and many cars conk out on this hill.  This night, an old mini-van had lost its clutch on a bend in the road where the emergency lane was not even wide enough for a single car.

The family in the van had just flown in from Disneyworld, Orlando to Portland.  It was almost midnight, dead of summer, very hot and muggy.  They were extremely tired.  The father wanted the van towed to his mechanic about 10 miles away, and they lived about 10 miles west of where they had broken down, just off the highway.

A family of 7, with 5 kids, all teenagers.

Yes, 7 people, 5 teenagers.  The youngest was autistic.

While the police blocked the lane for the hookup, I told the father we would have to call a cab for most of them, as there were only 3 seat belts in the truck.  The danger of the area made it necessary to get them off the highway.  There was an exit just about a half-mile up the road.  He asked if some of them could ride in the towed vehicle.  I knew that wouldn't fly, especially if some of them were teenagers.  There was only one time I ever let someone ride in a towed vehicle, a man who was extremely inebriated, and he thought he was going to be sick.  I made him sit in the back seat.

I had to get these people off the freeway.  A cab wasn't even going to respond to this location.  So I told them all to pile into the cab of the tow truck, and we'd get off the freeway.

Hard to say who was sitting on whom, but at least two people were facing to the rear, basically sitting on the dashboard.  The police officer immediately zoomed past me, on his way to another call, and I was about to take the exit when I asked how everyone was doing.  They were all laughing about the situation, having a great time.  I asked the father again where they lived.  I thought about it a moment, and then I told them we were just going to go for it.

This little episode could certainly have put a damper on the end of their trip, but I think it might have ended up being the exclamation point.  We all laughed and yelled and jostled and I think maybe a few punches were thrown, but hey, we're talking 5 teenagers who have been on a plane for 7 hours and probably awake for at least 15.

They all piled out at their home, unloaded the luggage from the van, and I told the father that I could get his van dropped off at the mechanic without him, and told him to call it a night.  They were all happy to be home, and I got two very sincere thank-yous from the parents.

Have a safe and profitable week.

Nick Kemper

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