Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Zamir the Tow Truck Driver

Zamir is from Africa. He told me that if I stopped at his family’s house in Ethopia and asked for him, they would invite me in and take care of me, even if he wasn’t home.  He’s been driving tow trucks for 30 years in California, and that kind of open-hearted community is just a memory.

 He left his job at AAA some years ago to start his own towing company....but with the rising cost of fuel, insurance payments, a string of irresponsible employees, and all the added weight of running a business it just wasn’t worth the headache. So, he closed down his shop, cancelled his accounts and went back to work for his old boss, who sounded like a complete asshole from the orders he was barking to Zamir over the dispatch radio. Halfway down the hill, the truck lost power and we couldn’t get it up past 15mph. Between Zamir’s requests for help on the CB and his new/old boss’s demands for him to complete the tow regardless, Zamir said that this was his first day back working for this company again, and he didn’t think he could take it much longer. His buddy owns a locksmith shop and asked him if he wanted a job there. He’s eyeing the door to leave the tow biz all together.

The irony of my tow truck breaking down wasn’t lost on him, and as the engine failed, he threw his hands up in surrender. We pulled over, with the line of cars that built up behind us whizzing and honking past. I told him we should forget about getting my broken jeep to the shop and go get a beer. He laughed with his incredibly warm smile and told me that him and beer don’t mix...he used enjoy it, but he always ended up needing to reach for a bible to straighten him out.

 After a half hour or so under the big hood, he diagnosed the problem and managed to clear a clogged fuel line. He climbed back in the cab covered in diesel fuel and apologizing for the smell. Z agreed with me that he should be payed double for driving and being a mechanic.

Despite all the hassles of driving a tow truck, Zamir prides himself on being a professional. He said he always has a plan and is mentally prepared for each tow, so that there aren’t any last minute bathroom breaks or snafus to delay the customer’s assistance. Unfortunately, his professionalism often isn’t appreciated by his impatient customers, who sometimes won’t help him push a dead car a few feet, and his employer, who pays him $10 an hour. He’s 59 years old and has two girls in college and is barely getting by. He can’t afford health insurance, which he says adds a constant stress on his mind, with the job always keeping him on the dangerous LA roads.

Zamir is an honest, decent man. He taught his girls to be good to others, and appreciate the life they were given, and as a result, people always compliment him on his children. He says that when he dies, people who remember him will say, “Zamir was a poor man, but always working.”

Safe Travels, my friend.

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