by William Hunn
I was in the checkout line at the supermarket when the man in front of me got my attention. He was older, very thin almost frail looking. His basket of stuff was inching toward the cashier on the conveyor.
Excuse me sir, “Do you think you could help me pay for my groceries. I don’t have any money and I need to feed my grandkids”.
Sure enough there were two small boys with him and a woman hovering in the background. The selections on the conveyor reflected the eating preferences of children. “I just started a new job and haven’t been paid yet. We’re staying at the Motel Six. I graduated with my welding certificate last week.” I knew the company he referenced and it matched the kind of work he was qualified for and was not one just anyone would be familiar with. Everything on the conveyor could be prepared in a motel microwave or single hotplate.
While he talked to me, Grandma went off for a flat of bottled water and we sent the boys for a couple bottles of Gatorade. I asked if he had gas money. “no sir, tank’s almost dry” I slipped him a twenty, “Buy some gas”.
As I was about to pay, one of the boys picked up a candy bar and looked up at me hopefully. I nodded assent. Total bill was 38 dollars and change.
They packed up their groceries and left. I turned to deal with my own order. The cashier looked me in the eye and mouthed “Thank You”.
It was Saturday, poker night. I was off to the game at a workmate’s house, down Columbia Rd to Washington Street. It was winter and the beginnings of a “wintry mix” was developing. It was the most direct route but I knew none of my workmates would go that way. Washington Street was the wrong part of town.
I got to Gary’s and we played. The stakes were low and I have no recollection of whether I won or lost. When I left the house, the wintry mix had turned to snow and begun to accumulate. The roads were slippery and driving was treacherous.
As I proceeded slowly back up Washington Street, I saw a van coming toward me and it began to slide into my lane. I steered left as far as I could go but the left front quarter of the van struck the left front quarter of my pickup. We ended up side by side, nose into the curb, so close together that our doors wouldn’t open.
I got out through the passenger door and went around to the driver’s window. He rolled down the window so we could talk. He wanted to exchange information and leave as quick as possible. I wanted to call a cop. He was clearly at fault since his vehicle had lost control and crossed the center line before hitting me. This did not sit well with him and the next thing I knew he was backing up, nearly running me down and left.
I was stranded and I was alone in a part of town not recommended after dark.
There was a store on the corner. I headed that way hoping to find a pay phone. I called 911 and reported what was now a hit and run. They would send someone. I went back to my car to wait. The truck wouldn’t run so there was no point in getting inside. I stood by the rear bumper watching for the cop I hoped would arrive soon. Still snowing, my feet were wet and I was cold.
A beat up old station wagon slowed and stopped. The driver got out and asked me what happened. He invited me to get in the car to get warm and we would wait for the police to arrive. I got in behind the driver. His wife was in the passenger seat ant there were two children on the seat next to me. We made small talk until the police arrived.
The police arranged for a tow truck and asked me into their car to take notes for their report. Seeing that things were under control, my Samaritan took his leave and I thanked him profusely. After my truck was in tow the cops offered to drive me home. Shortly after we turned right onto Columbia Road, we found the van abandoned in the middle of the road. We stopped briefly so they could look at the damage and get the license number. As we continued on to my house the cops assured me that the van would be called in stolen the next morning.
As I pondered the events of the evening I had no doubt that had my benefactor found himself in similar circumstances in my neighborhood, he would have received no help. None of my workmates would have slowed down let alone stop the car and allow him into the back seat with their children.
We are all somehow the sum of the events of our lives. I would like to believe in Karma; as ye sow, so shall ye reap but who really knows. In the end, given a choice, I choose kindness.