Stuck in the Sand with an ex-Marine
I write a great deal about the bad behavior of money managers and investment bankers. Today I want to tell a story about a Marine veteran. In order to tell this story, I am going to have to admit that I got our car stuck on the beach north of Corolla, North Carolina on the Outer Banks. While I didn’t commit the unpardonable sin of driving on sand without four-wheel drive, I did wind up in a rut where there wasn’t enough clearance for our car.
As we tried to clear sand from under the car, a family stopped. The kids had insisted that they help us out, since they’d recently gotten stuck. Despite joining us in digging around and placing boards under the tires, our car wouldn’t budge. We thanked the family for their efforts and called a towing service. However, good Samaritan number two stopped in an F-150 truck. He said he’d been stuck before and was sure his truck could pull us out. We dug around the wheels, attached a cable to the front of our car, and his truck became stuck in the sand. So we dug around the tires of his F-150, but it wouldn’t budge either.
When you’re waiting for a tow truck to pull you out of the sand, there’s a bit of time to chat. It turns out the driver of the F-150 is a retired Marine with tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan under his belt. He’d driven across all sorts of desert sands and had never gotten stuck until now. The rescue truck was a Toyota SUV. It looked tiny next to the F-150 with its large tires and dual exhaust.
For the tow truck operator, our Volvo wagon was just ordinary business. However, he was excited about pulling out the F-150. After a bit of digging and lowering the air pressure in the truck’s tires, the tow truck operator jumped into his SUV and pulled the F-150 out of the sand without any effort at all.
I offered to pay the ex-Marine’s towing charge. After all, he’d only gotten mired in the sand because of trying to rescue our car. He refused. He said he’d been sure he could pull our car out and was responsible for his own predicament. When I offered him $20.00 to buy beer for his buddies and himself, he also refused. He told me that he appreciated the gesture, but he’d been happy to help.
After the F-150 had been rescued, the tow truck operator performed the same maneuver on our Volvo. The SUV showed no signs of strain as it hauled us out of the sand. Under most circumstances, I’d be extremely unhappy about having to pay towing charges for my mistake in judgment. However, I spent my career in a business where every positive action only takes place because there’s a financial incentive plan designed to reward that behavior. It was nice to be reminded that some times people do good because it is the right thing to do.