In the summer of 2018 I drove cross-country, New York to Montana, alone. The plan was to stop in Colorado Springs to visit my Army son and then meet Kathleen in Kalispell where we would spend a week or so before heading back to New York. The pickup was loaded with tools and stuff so I could build a shed on the property we had purchased the year before.
Maybe it’s me, but interstate driving isn’t a whole lot of fun and doing it for twelve plus hours a day is a strain. Truck traffic, crazy ass drivers, construction, you know. Its particularly stressful if you’re on a self-imposed schedule. Have to make ??? by tonight, so I can get up early and make ??? by tomorrow night. There was no real reason to sweat the schedule it was totally self-imposed. Perhaps it was the ingrained training of 60 some years:
Have to get to work Have to get to a meeting/class Have to get home Have to (fill in your own)
In the middle of this self-scheduled interstate voyage I got a flat somewhere in Ohio farm country. I could feel something was wrong with the truck and was lucky enough to be only a mile or so from a truck stop. I pulled in, found a lonely parking spot and got out of the cab to watch my rear tire go flat before my eyes. Shit!
Not being a millennial and having grown up driving a stick, I knew how to change it. But the truck was loaded, the spare was under the truck and the jack under the back seat which was filled with luggage and other treasures. I guess it was obvious to anyone looking that I was having a hard time. The jack wasn’t cooperating, the lug nut was too tight, I was sweating profusely. Into this picture walked a young man who offered to help. Not being one to ask for help but being almost at my limit and not an idiot, I said, “Sure.”
Together we adjusted the jack, loosened the frozen lug nut and put on the spare which had been hidden under the truck for five years. (Yes, it still had air in it). The young man wouldn’t take money, we shook hands and he departed. (See my August 2018 Blog)
Fast forward a year or so. We now live in Kalispell, Montana and are having a home built. It’s a great adventure but has its challenges, like almost all our belongings are in a storage shed as we live in a rental an apartment. I was at the storage shed the other day looking for something I could most likely do without when a young man, twenty something, walked quietly up to the shed entrance and stood there for a second, silently.
My New York immediately kicked in. I thought what does this guy want? Who’s behind him? Where’s that big wrench?
He was only silent a second before he asked, “Excuse me sir, could you give me a jump? My car won’t start.”
Still being in New York mode I almost said, “You talking to me?” But I didn’t. I looked around for trouble (remember I grew up partly in Brooklyn) didn’t see any and said, “Sure, give me a minute.”
When I drove up to his car in the next aisle, I saw he had his wife and a small child (6 years old?) with him. It wasn’t terribly cold, maybe 40 degrees, but they were sitting in the cold car. They had been there a while.
We hooked up the jumpers and his car started right up, he smiled, the kid jumped up and down and Mom, still sitting in the driver’s seat looked relieved. What ever else was going on in their lives, she wouldn’t have to deal with this anymore. We shook hands and I left.
I hadn’t thought about the young man in Ohio in a long time. He came out of nowhere, helped a stranger, and drove into the sunset. I’ll never see him again, but I’ll remember him. It took a year for me to return the favor, to pass it forward. I think I was more relieved than the young wife who gave me a big smile as I drove away.
I don’t know them. They don’t know me. I doubt we’ll meet again, but they made me feel very good that day.