Early last month, I was in a bind.

After joyriding my 2002 hot-rod Ford Focus on Farm-to-Market 2484 and Stillhouse Lake Road, it died.

As I tried to restart it, the engine coughed a horrific metal slapping sound before gasping its last breath and going mute. It blew a rod.

I called the nearest trusted mechanic shop, National Tire and Battery, about an hour before it closed at 8 p.m. I was cutting it close.

Expecting disappointment, I was surprised by the empathetic service rep:

“Just wait for the tow, man. We’ll be here until about 9.”

A double-long tow truck finally pulled in to the small parking lot about 8:50, and took 30 minutes to precisely angle it and drag my car onto the flatbed.

I called NTB again at about 9:10, as the tow truck driver finished the load.

“Will you guys still be there in about 10 minutes?”

“Bring it through, man.”

I arrived 20 minutes later, and Phillip Hassell had left one garage bay open for my dragster.

After Hassell confirmed that my car couldn’t be fixed, I returned the next day to clean the car out and wait for the junkyard tow.

As the hours passed, I cluelessly and sporadically asked him about my car’s value, where I should buy the next one and what I should buy.

Not remotely irked by my rushed questions or inferior car knowledge, he joked with and educated me between waiting on customers.

He offered coffee, water and a table to eat lunch without hesitation, and didn’t once ask when the tow guy was coming.

And Hassell didn’t charge a dime for his hospitality. Not what I expect from the typical cattle-herding corporate establishment.

“Our manager, he lets us do what we need to do to help somebody,” Hassell said. “We can all have a better conscience at the end of the day.”

The 25-year-old former Army specialist and Texas Department of Criminal Justice employee flipped a 180-degree turn when he started in the customer service field, he said.

“I had to change completely,” Hassell said. “Now, it’s just easy. I can be myself. I love helping people out. It’s worth it to me in the end, and I don’t ever expect anything out of it.”

Contact Brian Bradley at bbradley@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7567

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