Saturday, October 31, 2009

I Have Never Depended on the Kindness of Strangers

Nope. I've hoped. Prayed. Begged and dreamed that in dire situations there would be SOMEONE decent enough to at least ask if I needed help. Even if it was insincere, I craved this display of human decency. Rarely have I seen that much. Cynical, yes. Truthful? Not anymore. Those of you who know me or talk to me a lot know that what I'm about to say has happened before. Within the last 6 months. You're going to laugh. You're going to point, hold your stomach, rock back and laugh. You'll wipe your eyes and beg for a moment for breath. Okay, maybe not, but I bet you still point and laugh. It's that kind of story.

So last night, 1240 am, I'm heading home from a night of packing, wine and movies. I hear a familiar chugging sound and feel that stuttering that makes my heart race and my stomach stop in dread. I had been less then careful with my malfunctioning gas gauge and was no longer running on E. Fumes had long since blown out. My poor truck literally coasted to a stop at a red light. ALL forward momentum was lost, but I didn't have enough to get to an open gas station anyway.

Now, the last time this happened, I had to be rescued by the lovely and wonderful Baroness. Since then I've kept a 2 gallon gas can in my car "just in case." I know what you're thinking. Why don't I fill up before I get to this point, right? When I bought the truck a year ago, I knew it had electrical problems in the dash. The gauges don't always work right. My brake light is on when I've released the emergency brake. The gas light will come on when I've JUST filled the tank. The speedometer doesn't register speed most of the time (though it seems to be improving with winter; maybe the cold helps somehow), and the odometer will randomly flash at me and not register the miles I'm driving. I try to fill up when the gas gauge registers at 1/4 left. It's usually still accurate at that point. Last night, I didn't pay attention to the fact that it was less than 1/8 a tank when I got in to go home. Had I don't that, I may never have discovered that there are decent people in this world.

So I'm getting onto the interstate when all of this happens. I recognize it first when I'm trying to get up to speed and can't. I let off the gas and keep my foot off the brake for the slight downhill slope and curve hoping that the forward momentum will be enough to carry me to the first exit and nearest gas station. Well, I got half that. I got to the first exit but at the bottom was a light and it was red. My truck sputtered and died right there. I couldn't even get it started again. So I get my gas can and my purse, lock up the truck and start hoofing it down the street towards the BP station--the only gas station I can see. I'm not overly familiar with the area, but I know that there are gas stations around that exit. Just not AT the off ramp. And not open at (now) 1 am.

Cursing myself and turning around, I get even with my truck when an SUV of guys who are stopped at the light at that exit ask if I'm okay. Now, call me paranoid, cynical, mistrustful... whatever. My first thought was, "Oh dear God don't let them offer to give me a ride. I have to refuse cause I'm SO not getting into a car with three men I don't know at 1 am." They roll down the window and ask if I need a ride. I smile politely.

"No thanks, I'm just heading up the street to the gas station."

All three protest, and I'm thinking, "Oh no... no no no... " The driver leans over his passenger and waves for me to come closer. At first, I don't move. But then he starts talking again.

"Don't worry about a think, we'll take care of you. Give us the gas can and we'll go fill it up for you."

Shocked--not just surprised but outright shocked at this generosity--I take the three steps between our vehicles and hand over my gas can.

"Stay right there. Stand next to your car so that the people coming down can see you and you don't get hit. We'll be right back."

Before I can tell them I don't have cash, the SUV is gone. Now comes the part where I later really took stock in just how poor an opinion of humanity I have. They were gone for maybe three minutes when I thought, "I really hope they don't steal my gas can. I'll have to call Baroness and ask her to come help me. I don't want to do that; she's probably asleep by now." I was kind of sad at the thought that I really did think they might not come back and I was out an $8 gas can AND would have to inconvenience a friend. My next thoughts were even worse. "What if they come back and demand some "other" form of compensation for their troubles when they find out I don't have cash? Sure I can defend myself, but it's 3 large men against me... I'm not THAT good." That's when I hung my head in shame, pulled out my phone and started chatting with a friend via text. He was justifiably concerned and didn't call me stupid or silly for what happened, though he would have been within his rights to do so.

So what happened? About fifteen minutes passed and they come back. Turns out they had to go a bit further afield to find an open gas station. The guy even went so far as to put the gas in my truck then insisted on waiting to make sure my truck started before he was willing to cross the street back to his friends and his own car. He wanted no money at all. Nothing. Even more, he made sure I had money to actually get gas. This all blew me away. I got in my truck, drove to the gas station he directed me to, and as I put more gas in the tank, texted my friend to let him know that I had my gas can back and was now at a gas station filling up. I decide to peak in the bed of the truck where my gas can resides and what do I find? A five dollar bill. I'm not kidding. The guy put $5 in the bed of my truck under my gas can.

I went home with a smile on my face, a warm feeling in my heart, and more than a bit of shame at my reaction to the situation. I'm glad to have been proven wrong: there are decent people in the world willing to help when there's nothing in it for them. There really are gentlemen left in the world.

1 comment:

  1. That's awesome. You could've called me, but I'm glad you got the lesson. I'm not advocating being unwary of strangers, especially at 1:00 in the morning, but maybe be a little more half-full!