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Inside Story: It’s not fair to stereotype people
by Tom Busselberg
Jul 17, 2011 | 3103 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
My July 4th plans included traveling to Provo for a traditional picnic with extended family.

But when I first turned the ignition, nothing happened.

It didn’t appear to be a battery problem, because all the lights and whistles worked just fine.

So I waited a minute, and the engine started right up. But keeping that little annoyance in mind, rather than parking on the street near the picnic site, I drove into the park’s parking lot, leaving plenty of room in case there was a repeat of that problem.

Which there was.

And this time, which by now was late afternoon, no amount of trying would coax the ignition to turn over.

In spite of all the efforts of my mechanically and car-savvy son and his friend, who went to retrieve a fairly extensive tool kit, nothing worked.

It was time to be grateful for car insurance, including that $2 monthly fee for towing, and call for a tow to Bountiful.

The very personable operator told me to expect the tow truck within an hour. I was prepared for that, especially it being a holiday.

But the guy was there in less than half that time. And I could tell from the start that he wasn’t one of those “stereotypical tow truck drivers.”

I could tell from the start that Mel would be anything but. He was the antithesis of that gruff, burly, apparently know-nothing tow truck driver people think of.

And worry about dealing with, especially on a holiday when the “good guys” are off, like I was, enjoying life with their friends and family.

Mel and I quickly started up a conversation, after he quickly secured my vehicle and we were on our way.

He didn’t seem to mind the 50 mile drive to Bountiful. As a matter of fact, his mother, as it turns out, lives in Ogden, so he often travels that stretch of highway from his Orem home.

As it turns out, Mel is about 44, and has been towing vehicles for 11 years. He has a family, a wife and four kids – who it’s very evident he dearly loves and is proud of.

He’s a man of many talents. At the age of 19, he was the youngest employee to ever manage an auto parts store for a national chain in Utah County.

Mel could easily also work as a chef at a fine dining establishment. As a joke, he sometimes fools his kids into thinking the chicken he has prepared is actually from KFC (that secret recipe may no longer be safe), or something similar.

And rather than the fact he’s not LDS in the very Mormon Utah County being much of an issue, Mel said he gets much more flack from people thinking he repossesses vehicles (is one of those dreaded repo guys) – which he’s not.

He’s also a smoker, but the only way that was apparent to me was because of the very visible ash tray and the fact Mel’s got a detailed plan to quit. He never took a single puff of a cigarette during our journey, nor did the vehicle smell like cigarette smoke.

Mel realizes that while being a tow truck driver can pay the bills, and then some, especially when he works for a good company, which it sounds like he does – or did – he doesn’t want to do that for the rest of his working life.

So Mel’s last day on the job was July 8.

He has always had an interest in photography and forensic science, and is going to pursue a degree, hopefully land a job in that discipline.

So maybe we’ll see him nosing around some crime scene in the future.

Mel was proof to me, once again, that there is more to everyone than what we may assume. It also further supports what Mark Twain said about everybody he met having an interesting story.

I constantly find that to be true in my profession. This year, another great, if not welcome, example presented itself.

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