I was a hot mess, but not in distress


Paloma Libre


I guarantee you that every time I have something important to do or a place to be, there is something that darts out in the way.

I cannot be the only journalist that has been stranded on the side of the road with a smoking car, $58.69 to her name and news work to do while under the blazing sun.         


My car started to act a little funny on my way back from a journalism conference in Fort Worth. “Marilyn,” my seven-year-old Chevy, had nearly 153,000 miles on her. Warning lights and beeps went off and I knew it was not a good thing.

 I got up early the next morning to have my car checked.

I went to the shop, had my oil changed and was told my car was leaking coolant, but they were unsure where it started. They did not seem too concerned and I set off to conquer the news.

As I was driving down East Main and passing Fort Martin Scott, I heard a pop, beeps, and saw flashing warning lights on the dashboard.

The car started to slow down and white plumes of smoke were overcoming the inside and outside of my car.

I had no place to pull over as Marilyn was giving out.

I know it was an alarming sight, but the people honking at me did not realize that I had ZERO control over the situation. I was able to steer my car onto the city’s wastewater plant property.

If you were in the area and saw a red car with a girl in distress standing next to it, that was not me.

I was not in distress … yet. Distress did not come until the next day when I found out I would have to purchase a new vehicle.

Moving on, I called my insurance company and then waited for the tow truck to show up.

There I was with a smoking car, two more news events to cover and a mind set on getting my day’s work done. I was giving myself pep talks the whole time to keep from having a pity party.

I watched many people slow down to get a look at me and my smoking car near that busy intersection.

Not one person stopped, and I did not expect any one to go out of their way either. We live in a crazy world and I will admit my hair was out of control. I was sweating out my makeup and I probably looked like a hot mess.

A man passing by in a little Toyota truck whipped a “U” in the middle of the road. He turned onto the narrow easement, jumped out of his truck and stunned me with his concern and questions.

This man genuinely cared, wanted to help and refused to take no for an answer.

He offered me cookies, water, suggestions on what mechanics to visit and to be my chauffeur for the rest of the day if I needed one.

How many people do you know would actually do this?

He kept me company and my spirits up while I waited for the tow truck. He even drove me to the office to pick up a work vehicle to use.

I asked him why he made the choice to stop to help me instead of going about his errands.

All he said was, “I just could not pass by and let a young woman like you just fend for herself out here. It’s hot and with people these days, anything can happen. This is a crazy time in our world.”

I tried to offer him the little money I had and told him I would get in touch with him again.

How did I manage to get the rest of my work accomplished and contribute parts of the news?

The kindness of a complete stranger named Tom Romano.

I have always said this and will continue to believe it costs us nothing to be kind.

Thank you, Tom, for the selfless help and giving me hope that there is still kindness in strangers.



Erika Vela joined the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post in November 2017. A South Texas native, her column Paloma Libre, or "Free Bird," will appear periodically.