It was the winter of 1974-75 and I was a freshman at University of Maine/Farmington. I was riding home to Tewksbury, Mass., with Dave, who lived in nearby Billerica. It was snowing when we left after his last class on Friday. When I got into his Chevy, Dave muttered, “I’m not sure how good my tires are.”

We went via Route 2 through Wilton, down to Jay and Interstate 95.

Snow was accumulating and traffic slowed to a crawl. We saw cars that had gone off the road.

Approaching the toll booth in Portsmouth, Dave tapped his brake and we started to spin. The lights from the toll station illuminated the snow swirling around us like a snow globe that was falling to the floor.

More snow flew when we smashed into the snow-covered guardrail. The engine stalled.

The toll collector’s booth was toasty-warm! Smells of wet wool, wet socks from freshman boy-feet, and the operator’s stale coffee filled the space.


The tow truck driver took the car and us to a Kittery car dealership. He unlocked a side door to let us in, “You’ll be locked in for the night, once I let you in.”

Almost all of the lights were off. It felt spooky. Then we heard laughter.

In the waiting area were a grey-haired couple and a family with two small kids.

The elderly woman and I walked through the showroom. We sat in the most expensive car.

“Ooh, this is nice,” she cooed.

“Why don’t you lie down in the backseat and sleep?” I asked.


“Oh no, I couldn’t do that.”

Her husband had followed us and chuckled.

“This is as close as we’ll get to this kind of car, Honey. Stretch out. I’ll take the front seat.”

I went back to Dave, “The elders are sleeping in a car in the showroom. I’m going to pick one out if you’re interested in one for yourself.”

The mom shot a look at her husband, “Do you think they have a van or station wagon?”

“Let’s go car shoppin’, Honeypot. C’mon kids.”


We had ourselves a slumber party!

We used our coats for blankets and scarves for pillows.

“Sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite,” the elderly man chuckled.

I fell asleep feeling safe, somewhat comfortable and unexpectedly cared for.

Hushed voices woke me the next morning.

“They came in during the storm last night.”


Hoping I hadn’t drooled on the upholstery, I lifted my head and looked around. Sales staff, office folks and repair guys were looking at us.

We stumbled out of our makeshift beds. The staff couldn’t have been more gracious. Fresh coffee was made. Someone was sent for donuts.

By mid-morning Dave and I were on our way.

Arriving home, I remember that Dad gave Dave a handshake with a couple of 20s in it, to go towards new tires.

It has been over 45 years and snapshots of that trip come back in vivid color and detail.

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