Friday, August 17, 2012

The Kindness of Strangers

It's almost 10pm, and after a long day at work I'm finally driving home. It's pitch black outside, with the exception of my headlights cutting through the darkness. My gas light turned on about ten miles ago, and I have another ten to go til I reach the gas station. (And another 15 after that to get home.) I'm holding my breath, and sucking in my stomach in the hopes I can make my car forget its 120 pound passenger and will make it to refuel okay.

Well, we do.

I'm tired as I work unscrewing the gas cap, eyes shutting against the sudden burst of lights above me. All I want to do, is get home to my dog who's been home alone for 10 hours now. I want to curl up in a ball and sleep. I do the math in my head, and figure I should have about $10 left on my credit card (because I have $0 left in my bank account). I watch the numbers zoom by, and release the handle. $9.93, sufficient to get home and maybe to work tomorrow. From there, I don't know what I'll do, but I'll breathe for tonight.

I cap the can, dig my wallet out of my car, and enter the gas station to pay. When I had the cashier my card, he looks at me robotically and says, "Declined."

I stand there, heart sinking through the floor, breathing coming in quick gasps. Can they siphon out the gas if I can't pay for it? I shake my head. "Try running it again."

My sensor didn't look anything
like this, sadly :(
He does, same response. Now I can't breathe. The toll of work, the long drive, the lack of money hits me. What am I going to do? What am I going to do? I have to get home tonight, I have to get to work tomorrow. (Insert f-bombs now.)

"I don't know what you want me to do," I say, ice chunks breaking off inside me as I swallow the tears. There are about four people in line behind me, and I can't look at any of them. "I can leave you all of my contact information, I just checked my bank account today, it said I should have money. Literally, I drive by here every day on my drive to work, it's not like you won't see me again. I don't know what you want me to do." (Pretty sure I am shouting this.)

"You can leave something here, but if you're not back by the morning to pay, we'll call the cops," he says simply.

I go through the list of things in my car; my ID (nope, I get pulled over too much for that), my credit card (not sure they'll accept that as clearly there is no money, so technically, right now, it has no worth)...I have nothing. For a moment, I consider giving him my shoe, but it's my work shoe, and I need that, too.

I stand there shaking my head, struggling to breathe through the wisps of air I'm getting. My heart is a drum beat in my ear, louder than the stereo in my car. I storm out to my driver's seat, combating the tears that just want to burst out of my eyes, and pull out my phone. I call my credit card, and they tell me I have close to $15 pending, and an available balance of $3. It's better than nothing. I start digging through the bomb explosion of my car to find more change, because maybe, just maybe, I can find enough money (not likely).

There's a knock on my partially opened window. I look up, eyes red and swollen from the tears still trying to come out. There is a man (with glasses) I believe. Because I have automatic windows, I can't open the window any farther.

"I'm sorry it's mostly in change, but here is $10," he offers.

And a damn erupts inside me. Tears fall freely from my eyes. "I am so sorry," I say sobbing. "I thought I had more money than this, and I just...." I can't talk, the liquid strangles my words as the kind stranger puts his hands through the small crack and hands me gas money.

"Just get home safe, okay?"

I cry more before regaining composure and the ability to drive home.

This isn't the first time something like this has happened. There was another night a kind stranger put $5 in my tank. Two days ago, another stranger gave me $1 so I could buy the 3 liter of water (because I felt like I was dying). One of the women I follow on twitter has offered to send me money via pay pal because she knows I'm broke. I've never met her, but her kindness amazed me. There are a lot of horrible things going on in the world, but people like this give me hope. I can't wait until I have enough money to be the kind stranger to give handouts, but for right now, I'm the one with tear stains accepting them.

To those of you who are the kind strangers from time to time; thank you. With every bit of my being. (Baxter thanks you, too.)


  1. That's awesome. I'm glad there was someone there for you.


Please know that if you comment and I don't respond, it's not because I don't love you. It's because I don't have wifi, but I do have a bad memory.

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