March 8, 2012 -
Talk about a "crash course" in wrecker operation. Within 15 minutes of meeting my mentor I was behind the wheel!
My first reaction: "I've never driven a tow truck before. I'm just about to...pray!"
George Harper, who's co- owner of Mauldin's Towing in Tallahassee, is a trusting soul, and a man of action. We grabbed this disabled Ford Explorer, and in no time we were unstrapping tires... ("untie this...then pull this? ")...lowering the boom, and saying adios to the satisfied customer.
Andy Branch seemed impressed: "You did okay...got it here in one piece. That's all that matters."
George and his wife Nancy are the heart of Mauldin's. She handles the phones and customers.. George and the other drivers do the towing.
So is their marriage a wreck, being together 24/7?
Nancy says, "I love it. He's good to be around. I love it."
"Truly, it's a good thing," chimes in George.
George says Nancy is the best thing that's ever happened to him.
"We've been married 25 years the fourteenth of this month," he says confidently. Like most men the actual dates of those romantic milestones are a little fuzzy, but Nancy has to straighten out the facts.
"He has it wrong. We've been together 25 years. We've been married 22 in July."
Our second mission sent us out to snag a Nissan. I backed up carefully to the front of the car, but what I couldn't see was that the arm had already contacted the tires. Instead of stopping, I was shoving the car back...but no harm, no foul!
Time to raise the boom and strap the tires. "Oops...too far?"
(Art ratchets tire strap)
Like a fighter pilot we go through a checklist before we roll.
"Turn your PTO off."
Towing this baby over a rutted dirt road we had to barely crawl along.. or risk popping a hole in the car's oil pan.
George has had some dangerous calls over the years, like the drunken college co-ed who stabbed him in the arm with a pen, and the guy who didn't like his driveway blocked and attacked with a forklift!
"When he got mad he went in the backyard and got a forklift and tried to shove everything back into Centerville Road!" says George.
My next challenge was maneuvering our crippled car into a parking spot.
George makes sure I get it right: "Turn it back the other way,Turn it hard, hard, hard!"
I asked George about some of those predatory towing companies that gouge customers. He knows they're out there, but says he goes the extra mile to give people a break.
"No one needs to get rich off someone's misfortune."
So how far has George gone for a tow? Try Cincinnati! He warned the customer it'd be expensive, but they insisted. The bill?
George and Nancy made the trip together...non-stop and loved the scenery.
It was gorgeous country. Well, I didn't care for Ohio," says George.
After we wrapped up the last job, I asked my boss how I did.
He actually seemed proud of me. "You did really good. You actually managed to back a car into a spot without tearing anything up."
Yep, George thinks I've got the right stuff . Who knows, maybe I'll pull up to your car one day and ask, "Need a tow?"