By Dustin Swope, 2013
Everyone knows TruTV’s breadwinner and primetime pride and joy, Lizard Lick Towing. Fans flock by the thousands to visit the houses that Ron Shirley and Bobby Brantly were seen repossessing cars from. Tattoo artists across the country complain about how many people come in asking for torso-dominating lizards. Records show that “Amy” has been the most popular name for baby girls three years running.
Okay, so maybe that’s not entirely true, but it would be if everyone was the devout follower of Lizard Lick Towing and their TV show that I think they should be. Even if I’m in a league of my own, Ron, Amy, and Bobby certainly see their fair share of recognition. If nothing else, the stars can always count on North Carolina showing them love. Who doesn’t love a hometown hero with a cinderella story behind them?
In my first ever visit to the bona-fide location of Lizard Lick Towing LLC, I thought I had really lost out. I made time on a day that the whole gang had already scheduled an appearance on at a fall festival. What would a trip to Lizard Lick be, I thought, if I wasn’t going to meet the crew?
A pretty fun one, it turns out. Among other unexpected’s, I had the chance to meet and chat with Ms. Patty Branch. Those familiar with Lizard Lick know the reception lobby that has weathered many a storm, both the verbal and physical kind. The partitioning safety glass might be an inch and a half thick, but the walls sure feel paper-thin and neither can protect from words that cut like daggers. It takes a brave person to hold down that place in the reception lobby, and Ms. Patty is just that person.
Patty’s been with the crew since way before the fame and fortune came rolling in from the Lizard Lick series we know and love (well, I do at least). In fact, Ms. Branch has been holding the fort down since 2006. No cameras around then. In those years, the gang looked pretty much the way we see it on TV now. According to Patty, the only real difference between then and now was that, in 2006, no one cared if a deranged repo target came through to cuss and scream and punch holes in the wall. It just meant she needed to go find the patch kit.
Plenty of people pursue four-year degrees to get a chance at being a part of a nation-wide television show. Very few, however, are able to work their way up to a title like Patty holds in Lizard Lick. The best thing about her story? How modestly she tells it.
As a teenager, Patty walked into the trailer-office of a towing company in Lizard Lick, NC, looking for her first “real job.” She started out taking calls, then picked up dispatchings for the tow truck, and is now the go-to senior officer in the Lizard Lick command center while the faces of the TV show are off ‘getting themselves into a whole mess of trouble.’
What I loved about our time with Patty was seeing how falling under the spotlight affected her – Or hadn’t, rather. Personally, you would never know that Patty was such an integral part of a nationally recognized organization. She was polite and welcoming when I first approached her, and modest about what Lizard Lick was like before and after the cameras. She didn’t seem to try very hard for it, but Patty sure earned my trust as an authority on all things Lizard Lick and beyond.
At the same time, there was no emotional distancing while Patty and I talked. Often times, those who find themselves the target of media inquiry learn to stifle their emotions, their opinions, what feels like their entire personality. Not Patty. When she expressed neutrality or a desire to be fair, it was because she genuinely believes in the policy of living, and letting live.
I know this because, once she was satisfied that I was not their to embarrass or incriminate her, she was not afraid to speak her mind. Just as I came to trust in Patty, she put her faith in me. She voiced hopes and concerns that smear-media would love to get their hands on, and took positions that might not fit in with the majority-view and its expectations. I want to assure her and readers, though, that this exposition was made in good faith.
It’s inspiring to see that the lime light has not burned everyone it touches into automated, self-guarding cynics. As Ms. Patty Branch reminded me that day, fame does not have to strip us of our humanity. In honor of her authenticity, I hope that every every professional athlete and politician will learn from the example that Patty set in my eyes.