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Smith/My Turn: My day full of angels

This is a long thanks to all the nice people who made it possible for me to get a new set of license plates recently.

Long story short: I failed my car inspection because my license plate was no longer reflective enough. Who knew? This was supposed to be a simple trip to Greenfield in preparation for the surprise trip I’m taking my husband on for his 65th birthday. Our three lovely children bought their dad two tickets to a Red Sox/Yankees game. I added to the gift by getting a nice hotel room for a luxurious stay in Boston.

Over the years, I have taken good care of my car — never missed an oil change or milestone maintenance. All along inspection has been a breeze, but not today. One BIG RED F later and I’m off to the Registry of Motor Vehicles for new plates. Walking in, I am bombarded by thousands of forms, complemented by a large sign warning, “Do not to take a number without filling out the proper form first.” I scan for a form for getting a more reflective license plate to no avail. Suddenly, an angel in the form of a silver-haired, shorter-than-me woman is by my side. She quietly asks why I’m at the registry. I explain my dilemma. She assures me that for this transaction no form is needed, and to just take a number. My number is F-122. The digital screen above projects A-24. I find a place on a bench to wait the 14 hours I am sure this is going to take when another angel appears. This one is a bright-eyed man. He asks why I am there, I again explain. To my shock, he tells me all I need to do is get the plate off my car, bring it in to him and he can take care of everything right away.

I go out to my car and grab a hold of the nuts to unfasten my plate. Quickly, I realize there is no way these fasteners are going to come loose without a tool of some kind. I look in my car, nothing. I rifle through my purse, find my Swiss Army knife and begin trying to get the plate off with my can opener. I’m beginning to feel a bit desperate. I still have gazillions of things to do to pull off the birthday surprise. I return to the bright-eyed man and tell him I can’t get the plate off. Like the angel he is, he gets some clunky looking, metal apparatus out of his desk drawer and accompanies me out to my car. After great effort, we both realize these crumbly, rusty screws will not loosen without professional help. He suggests going to my local garage and seeing if they can be of help. Now my “local” garage is in Shelburne Falls, and I love them, but I’m in Greenfield, trying to get my car ready for this trip, and it seems a little crazy to drive all the way back to the hills just to get some screws loosened. Out of nowhere, Art’s Tires pops into my mind. I find their number, call, and yes, they are willing to take a whack at my decrepit plate.

At Art’s, I am met by another angel. He is a kind, white-haired gentleman who, after using two types of tools, loosens the screws but refuses financial compensation. I tell him he is my hero, thank him profusely and leave. While driving away I realize I wish I had gotten his name.

Back at the registry, I find the bright-eyed man and wave my recently dislodged plate like a treasure flag. He finds new plates for me, prints up a new registration and sends me on my way back to the Vehicle Inspection Center. Before I leave, I reach out my hand, and take a real moment to introduce myself. I am Nancy, he is Mike. I thank him with a firm handshake, a sincere nod and a grateful smile.

Once at the Vehicle Inspection Center, excited that my ordeal may soon be over, Sylvia, the receptionist who remembers me from the dealership where I bought my car almost 10 years ago, tells me that they can’t re-inspect my car unless I have both the front and the rear plates installed. And of course, as all along I’ve only had a rear plate because that’s how old my car is, the screws on the front plate are as frozen as the rear screws were. Looking at Sylvia, I’m thinking, please don’t make me go back to Art’s, I’m sure I’ve met my kindness quota for the day. Sylvia reads my mania and then she too turns into an angel. Out to the garage she goes, fetches the necessary tools, and within minutes we have the front plate installed and then best of all the ugly red F is replaced with a beautiful new “8.”

And so, this is a BIG THANK YOU to quiet angel lady at the registry, bright-eyed Mike at the Registry, the kind, white-haired gentleman at Art’s Tires, and sweet Sylvia from the Vehicle Inspection Center. It was the small kindnesses of these strangers that reaffirmed why I live in western Massachusetts. Oft times, people here will simply help each other just because it’s the right thing to do.

Nancy Smith lives in Ashfield and has three grown kids, two fat Labs and one wonderful husband.

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