9 Feb 2011

A Warm Fuzzy From The Internets

My talent overfloweth with MS Paint.
Nothing warms you up like a story of niceness. Well, that and being at an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean, like the one that my husband is staying at now (he's there for a wedding. I'm not jealous or anything). Anyway, I only just read this today, but it was posted and went viral-ish about a month and a half ago on Reddit. To put that in Internet Years, this is sort of the equivalent of just discovering and excitedly telling people about a great new TV show called LOST.

But seeing as someone as super cool and Internet-trolling as me didn't see this until now, I figure others out there hadn't read it either, and so I'll admit this missed my radar-of-very-important-things and pass it along today.

This entry is from Reddit member Rhoner who posted the following story in a thread about hitch-hiking:

Just about every time I see someone I stop. I kind of got out of the habit in the last couple of years, moved to a big city and all that, my girlfriend wasn't too stoked on the practice. Then some shit happened to me that changed me and I am back to offering rides habitually. If you would indulge me, it is long story and has almost nothing to do with hitch hiking other than happening on a road.

This past year I have had 3 instances of car trouble. A blow out on a freeway, a bunch of blown fuses and an out of gas situation. All of them were while driving other people's cars which, for some reason, makes it worse on an emotional level. It makes it worse on a practical level as well, what with the fact that I carry things like a jack and extra fuses in my car, and know enough not to park, facing downhill, on a steep incline with less than a gallon of fuel.

Anyway, each of these times this shit happened I was DISGUSTED with how people would not bother to help me. I spent hours on the side of the freeway waiting, watching roadside assistance vehicles blow past me, for AAA to show. The 4 gas stations I asked for a gas can at told me that they couldn't loan them out "for my safety" but I could buy a really shitty 1-gallon one with no cap for $15. It was enough, each time, to make you say shit like "this country is going to hell in a handbasket."

But you know who came to my rescue all three times? Immigrants. Mexican immigrants. None of them spoke a lick of the language. But one of those dudes had a profound affect on me.

He was the guy that stopped to help me with a blow out with his whole family of 6 in tow. I was on the side of the road for close to 4 hours. Big jeep, blown rear tire, had a spare but no jack. I had signs in the windows of the car, big signs that said NEED A JACK and offered money. No dice. Right as I am about to give up and just hitch out there a van pulls over and dude bounds out. He sizes the situation up and calls for his youngest daughter who speaks english. He conveys through her that he has a jack but it is too small for the Jeep so we will need to brace it. He produces a saw from the van and cuts a log out of a downed tree on the side of the road. We rolled it over, put his jack on top, and bam, in business. I start taking the wheel off and, if you can believe it, I broke his tire iron. It was one of those collapsible ones and I wasn't careful and I snapped the head I needed clean off. Fuck.

No worries, he runs to the van, gives it to his wife and she is gone in a flash, down the road to buy a tire iron. She is back in 15 minutes, we finish the job with a little sweat and cussing (stupid log was starting to give), and I am a very happy man. We are both filthy and sweaty. The wife produces a large water jug for us to wash our hands in. I tried to put a 20 in the man's hand but he wouldn't take it so I instead gave it to his wife as quietly as I could. I thanked them up one side and down the other. I asked the little girl where they lived, thinking maybe I could send them a gift for being so awesome. She says they live in Mexico. They are here so mommy and daddy can pick peaches for the next few weeks. After that they are going to pick cherries then go back home. She asks if I have had lunch and when I told her no she gave me a tamale from their cooler, the best fucking tamale I have ever had.

So, to clarify, a family that is undoubtedly poorer than you, me, and just about everyone else on that stretch of road, working on a seasonal basis where time is money, took an hour or two out of their day to help some strange dude on the side of the road when people in tow trucks were just passing me by. Wow...

But we aren't done yet. I thank them again and walk back to my car and open the foil on the tamale cause I am starving at this point and what do I find inside? My fucking $20 bill! I whirl around and run up to the van and the guy rolls his window down. He sees the $20 in my hand and just shaking his head no like he won't take it. All I can think to say is "Por Favor, Por Favor, Por Favor" with my hands out. Dude just smiles, shakes his head and, with what looked like great concentration, tried his hardest to speak to me in English:

"Today you.... tomorrow me."

Rolled up his window, drove away, his daughter waving to me in the rear view. I sat in my car eating the best fucking tamale of all time and I just cried. Like a little girl. It has been a rough year and nothing has broke my way. This was so out of left field I just couldn't deal.
In the 5 months since I have changed a couple of tires, given a few rides to gas stations and, once, went 50 miles out of my way to get a girl to an airport. I won't accept money. Every time I tell them the same thing when we are through:

"Today you.... tomorrow me."

tl;dr: long rambling story about how the kindness of strangers, particularly folks from south of the border, forced me to be more helpful on the road and in life in general. I am sure it won't be as meaningful to anyone else but it was seriously the highlight of my 2010.

Sort of reminds me of Pay It Forward, but without a teary-eyed Haley Joel Osment getting a DUI at the end. So - I'm wondering - does anyone out there have stories in which a total stranger helped you out - or a time when you helped a total stranger?


Jen 4:55 pm, February 09, 2011  

I love this story. Pay it forward. That what each of us needs to do, and all we need to do to make this world a better place.

Anonymous,  11:57 am, February 10, 2011  

I am not a cynical person, but I call TOTAL BULLSHIT on this story. Lots of thing jump out at me, but a big one is sitting around for four hours yet they were 15 minutes driving distance from somewhere that sells a tire iron....I mean, come on.

Di Smith 9:30 am, February 11, 2011  

Could be, anon above, but if so, to what end? Motive? Like all good stories, it's the truth woven through that changes people.

I've helped a few people out before, in parking lots mostly. But once, out of gas in my husband's car on the 401 between London and Woodstock (tumbleweed territory) with no cell and after a long day, I was helped by a trucker from somewhere down south - like the deep south. He drove me to the nearest rest stop (about 15 minute drive) where I called my mom (knowing my hubby would never let me live it down). The guy was sweet, not too creepy and wouldn't take a thing in return. Should I have gotten in the cab of a transport BY MYSELF?? Probably not. But this guy was gold and helped me out big time. Say what you will, I received a new found respect for truckers that day - and that says a lot coming from a 401 driver.

Jen 10:57 am, February 16, 2011  

Haha, Anon. I actually don't disagree. There are a few lapses in logic in the story that got my BS flag waving a few times too.

That said, I still like the story for the reasons Jen and Diane pointed out.

I may be turning into a sap.

Jen 5:41 pm, February 17, 2011  

last May, i started getting lots of incorrectly addressed mail... clearly a girl had given her family the wrong address. this mail was very obviously birthday cards for the girl. after getting 4 or 5 of them, i decided that instead of opening them and taking the money that was probably in them (the ultimate bad karma and a federal offence!), i would try to look her name up on facebook so i could tell her i had her cards - her name wasn't common so this was pretty easy. i sent her a message and told her she could come pick them up whenever. she came and got them and was very grateful and thanked me for bothering to look her up. i felt pretty good about this.

Then a couple of weeks later, i get a card in the mail from this girl thanking me for taking the time to find her and make sure she got her cards. this turned me into a bit of a blubbering mess. because nobody sends thank you cards anymore and they should. she may have thought i was doing her the favor, but her taking the time to actually show that she appreciated it was pretty awesome to me.

Mama Mac,  2:47 pm, March 09, 2011  

Hello there!
I stumbled upon your blog yesterday, and have so enjoyed reading the 50's Housewife Experiment posts. It's great entertainment whilst I'm stuck at the office with nothing to do. After reading this post, I had to tell you my own story of random kindness from a stranger.
Many years back, (almost twenty at this point, yikes!), I was attending a highly religious college in Arkansas, at the urging of my parents. As a Montana girl through and through, I had a hard time adjusting to the.....cultural differences down South, not to mention the extreme rigidity of the college itself. In short, I was miserable. I spent most of my time driving the 60 miles of interstate between the tiny college town, and the large capital city of Little Rock, just to get away from it all. And to smoke my cigarettes, which were basically illegal at school, even though I was over 18. Anyhoo, once Christmas break rolled around, I was thrilled to be heading home for a nice long vacation, and I booked myself the quickest flight out after my last final. The airport was in Little Rock, and I had plenty of experience driving there, so my heart was light as I pulled onto the interstate.
Ten miles down the road, and about ten miles from the next town, my car started making a funny noise. I pulled over, put it in neutral, listened to the engine for, for a minute, didn't hear anything, so I tried to put my car back in first and pull back out....and nothing. I could not get the car to get in gear. My clutch was shot. I was stuck. Now keep in mind, this was twenty years ago, so no cell phones. I sat in my car and watched as numerous cars from passed me by, including several from my own Christian college. (I could see the parking stickers in their windows. Good Samaritans, my ass.) After about 15 minutes of futilely hoping someone would stop, I gave up and decided to start walking to next town down the road, and call my parents in Montana for help.
As I set off down the road, a semi-truck pulling an empty car carrier, stopped in front of me. A grizzled older gentleman stepped out and asked if I needed help. I'm pretty sure I cried. I told him the deal, how I was trying to get home for Christmas, and he offered to take me into Little Rock. I jumped at the offer and said if he could get me to the airport, I'd be set. He insisted we couldn't leave my car by the road, and before I could say anything, he had my little Hyundai loaded up on the carrier, and we were off. He asked if I knew anyone if Little Rock, and I said no, before I remembered that one of my cousins had married a Little Rock girl, and her family lived there still. I'd been to their house once a couple months prior for an Amway party. I was able to give him directions to the house, praying the whole time someone would be there. It wasn't until we got off the interstate, that I remembered how hilly it was in their neighborhood, and how tiny and twisty the streets were. But this man, this wonderful man, maneuvered that big rig delicately exactly where we needed it, unhooked my car in the driveway, and drove off after refusing many offers of money for his trouble. Fortunately for me, my cousin's in-laws were home, and they rushed me to the airport where I just made my flight home.
There is not a Christmas that goes by without me thinking of that man, and blessing him and his family wherever they are. He took the time and the effort to help, going far above and beyond what was needed. Truly amazing. I remember he said to me that he had daughters about my age, and he hoped that someone would help them if they needed it. I've done my best to pay it forward since then, though I have yet to do it as dramatically as he did.
So that's my story of kindness. All of it true.

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Need words? I'm a Toronto-based freelance writer who injects great ones into blogs, websites, magazines, ads and more. So many services, one lovely Jen (with one 'n').

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