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Driving on an unfamiliar stretch of interstate outside an unfamiliar Ohio city, a decision was made to steer off onto a dimly lit street.
It was just before midnight about a week ago. The immediate destination was the familiar yellow-and-black Waffle House sign glowing near the exit. Nothing else seemed to be open at that hour.
Pulling into the parking lot, it seemed important to park near the entrance and the light escaping from the restaurant windows. I remember looking for a perfect spot, not too close to someone else’s car that might be bumped.
Not sure if looking for better lighting and more space is the wisdom of age or a simple precaution. But it has become clear over the years that nothing much good happens after midnight anywhere. For some reason, my suspicious nature was on alert in this city at this hour.
After putting the car into park and turning off the key, my fellow travelers and I were greeted with a male voice emerged from the darkness just as we opened the car door.
He asked a simple question but an unusual one.
“Do you guys have a tire iron?”
At this point, the man behind the question still is not visible from my spot in the car. Actually, I can’t see much beside the wall in front of me and a van parked a couple spaces away.
My brain processed the situation quickly. In an instant, I settled for an indirect answer.
Describing the tiny jack that came with my compact car, I shouted my regrets back into the darkness to the unseen man behind the voice.
What I said was: “Sorry, can’t help you.”
What I thought was: “If you’re going to beat me upside the head, you could at least bring your own weapon.”
Having cleaned out the trunk in preparation for this trip, I knew exactly what was back there. In addition to the tiny jack that I described, there’s also a four-sided silver tire tool.
Having watched way too many crime dramas on TV and written way too many police news items, I settled for a way to convince him that my answer was no without having to say no.
In essence, it was still a lie.
Now that you understand the situation, I have to ask this: What would you have done?
Ben Sheroan is editor of The News-Enterprise. He can be reached at 270-505-1764 or firstname.lastname@example.org.