Tow Truck Drivers; The Unsung First Responders Of Los Angeles

It’s midnight on Saturday, it’s Tuesday rush hour, it’s Sunday morning and, at long last, you see him on the horizon. Your knight in an imposing, lights-flashing, get-out-of-my-way chariot. The crowd parts. It’s the tow truck driver is coming to the rescue.  

The tow truck driver in modern-day Los Angeles is the equivalent of a knight in several tons of amour, the LAPD showing up when the drunk fool just rear-ended you, the Fire Department coming to get your cat off the hot tin roof.  But, tow truck drivers don’t get the respect they should. It's not a revered position in our car-crazed society.

But, the Tow truck driver, especially in our city, is one of the noble professions. They are – with cops, firemen and emergency service worker- our city's first responders.

Yet, they are just about taken for granted. They usually don’t get tipped. Well, maybe some of you do, but it’s not a given. The server who walks a plate of braised short ribs with polenta 25 feet from the kitchen to your table and asks if you like your red wine “light and fruity” or “something more full-bodied” gets at least 20 per cent on top of your check. Table for four, good place, that server likely to get 60 bucks. The tow truck driver who drags your broken  down Dodge or  Toyota across four lanes of the Harbor Freeway at 5:40 p.m.?  That dude is lucky to get a five spot.  

Some weeks back. on a Saturday, my girlfriend’s car got stuck in emergency brake mode.  The plastic brake handle had broken off and the car - a Porsche  - would not move. I was parked halfway in the crowded, back parking lot of her restaurant and half in the alley. I was blocking in  to-go customers and two delivery drivers.  Attempts to move the car by myself and the valets were fruitless. I called Triple A, explained the situation, but was told - on this busy night -  they were at least 90 minutes away. 

Next, I called (the supposedly vaunted ) Porsche Roadside Assistance.  The dispatcher was about to hang up after telling me to call  back on Monday, when she casually tossed out a tip;  "Maybe call Melrose Towing."  

I did and 15 minutes later, Louie arrived.

Within sixty seconds, Louie had fixed the problem.  With a screwdriver, he managed to release the brake, thus freeing the car. What a relief. I asked where he’s was from. Compton, but had moved to Culver City. I tell him I want to do a story about him. He’s says “Okay”, but then, just like that, Louie was gone, off to rescue someone else.

Three days later, the same thing happened with the emergency brake. I’m not sure how it did, but, I knew what to do. I called Louie. He had given me his cell phone the first time he rescued me. It was a Tuesday night and he was home watching his baby, but he walked me through what to do. I felt like a master mechanic from Stuttgart when the brake released.

I repeated that I wanted to do an article about him.   ‘Okay”.

During the next week, I called him four times and texted four.   He was too busy to talk. He said he would get back. I called again and again. Too busy. Probably if I had a broken car he would have not been too busy. The reporter in me was a little annoyed with him, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought that Louie not being eager for recognition was cool

All this to say, next time you see a tow truck driver, even when you;re not in need of one, show 'em some respect.

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