Tuesday, May 20, 2008

It Was Only $26.00

Trey and Austin's Mom called me and asked if I would pick the boys up from school this afternoon. I was cutting down a tree at my Mom's old house behind Pricecutter's and dulled the chainsaw blade. It was hot work and I was ready to take a break.

I picked Austin up at WINGS, he was sad because it was the last day there and his best buddy was moving to Dallas, TX. I told Austin after we picked up Trey, we'd swing by Fast Bobbie's and get a frozen Coke. He cheered up quickly.

We got to Sunshine and picked up Trey and headed to the convenience store. While there, I filled up the Suburban. I have learned to fill it up whenever I get below full because gas goes up so fast and the Suburban burns a lot of gas with the big 454Chevrolet motor. I'm driving the Suburban this week while the private nurse is driving the S-10: her Honda is in the shop getting a new paint job.

So, we are at the convenience store at Campbell and Sunshine and I am fueling the vintage Suburban when I notice the car at the pump behind me has a donut spare on the right front and the driver, a red headed woman, is approaching me.

Well, yep, she spins me a tale of misfortune and woe. She and her buddy live up by Rolla and have been to NAMI to an autism conference (her son is autistic as is the child of her buddy) and leaving NAMI they have a flat and pull into Pricecutter's parking lot and watch the air escape the tire.

She related that she asked several people for help but no one helped change the tire. Finally, she gave a man her last $20.00 to change the flat. I told her that guy was a jerk and she wasn't much better: giving away her last twenty, her gas tank sitting on "E" and still 70 miles from home.

She asked if I would loan her $5 for gas. I said no, but when I got done fueling I would put five gallons in her car off of my pump. I ended up pumping $26.00 worth of fuel in her car. She took one of my cards and said she would send me the money when she got home.

I asked where she worked, she said she was a SAHM because her son had such severe behavior problems he couldn't be left alone.

After I shut the pump off, I went into the store and got Trey and Austin their frozen Cokes. I also told the boys if they ever saw a lady with a flat, to fix it and don't charge her $20.00, because it's the right thing to do.

I took the boys back to our house and they ate Ramon noodles and watched a little TV, then played in the front yard until their Mom came and got them.

Me, I sat on the porch and watched them play. It was wonderful. After they left, I got to thinking about the lady and the gas. I should have told her to go back to NAMI, surely they have emergency funds for their clients. I wondered who was watching the two ladies' kids while they were in Springfield for the conference. I wondered if they made it back to Rolla area on the donut spare. They said they were only going to drive 55 mph. I wondered if I got beat out of $26.00.

I only put gas in her tank for two reasons: she mentioned NAMI and said she had an autistic son. NAMI stands for National Alliance of the Mentally Ill. We all fit into that category sometimes and we can use all the help we can get. My niece's son is autistic. If the lady hadn't mentioned those two things I would have sent her to the Salvation Army which is right down the street or back to NAMI. But I didn't.

Trey asked me why I put gas in that lady's car. I told him that sometimes people need a little help and sometimes I feel like helping them. I also told him that if he was ever 70 miles from home, with an empty tank, and only $20 and he has a flat tire, don't give a man $20 to change the flat because he will end up having to beg gas at a convenience store.

All in all, her story was almost worth $26.00. I am on a fixed income. I watch what I spend very carefully. I remember when I was a young man and never been kissed, I got to thinking it over, and boy was I pissed. Oh wait, that's a whole other story.

This one is about how in 1973 I was working at a warehouse making $3.25 an hour and Joe Cox, a guy I worked with, equated the cost of everything into how many hours he had to work to pay for it. Like, if a steak dinner in a restaurant cost $6.50, Joe would ask, "Is this steak dinner really worth two hours work?" I still do that today. That's why I am happy with a "30 pack" and a five pound bag of "salted in the shells" and sitting in the backyard sipping slow out of styrofoam cups, wondering if the ladies made it home and wondering why I even care.

I just won't eat the Rib Crib's "All You Can Eat Ribs And Two Sides" for $10.99 plus tax and tip, twice.


Anonymous said...

You are an excellent role model for those boys, since you do things sometimes just because it's the right thing to do. Even if it may be just a story you'll never know, but the boys are watching and learning every step. I'm glad your in their lives.

Anonymous said...

Your best post ever, Jim .... please, more of this and less "aginning," OK?

Busplunge said...

Vance Randolph relates the tale of the city slicker who said to the oldtimer: "I bet you seen a lot of changes around here in your time."

To which the oldtimer replied:
"And I been aginnst dam near every one of them!"

admin said...

I've lived here a long time and I've never seen a woman in distress, that some man didn't come by and change a tire for her for free.

Still, kindness is kindness, and the hungry are still hungry even if they are liars.

The CDM said...

$20 to change a tire, man that's just wrong. Nice to know that there are still some people in this world who are willing to do something nice for someone, without knowing them or expecting compensation.

Way to go, BP!

Sandy said...

Inspiring post, Jim!

Whether you got taken for $26 or not, your compassion towards the lady in front of your boys showed them a lot.

Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...


It must be an inheritance from Bob Lee. A couple weeks ago, a similar thing happened to me at local Cstore, with a young woman, in a worn out Chevy Cavalier, looking for $16 for a night in the shelter for her and her two kids, in the car. Gave her twenty, even though unemployed, and have the same feelings of gullibility.


Busplunge said...

Bob Landewe tells the story of the time he and Dad were travelling across SW MO on highway 60, stopped at a gas station somewhere in the rain and a guy came up begging a handout. He was wet from the rain so Dad gave him his coat. I remember thinking now not only is the guy in wet clothes wearing a dry coat, he's still wet under the coat, but Dad, because he gave away his coat, will also get wet from the rain. Now we got two guys who are wet.

You are too young to remember, but before I-44 was built through St. Louis, there used to be a lot of slums in its path. Dad would gather groceries and deliver them to families down there. I went with him sometimes to guard the groceries in the car. He used to do this with Father Bill Faherty, the Jesuit who was the historian who wrote "Guns For San Sebastian". He also drove a yellow 1948 Jeepster. I thought Jesuits took a vow of poverty so I don't know where he got the car from.

So I guess we come by it rightfully, John.

Busplunge said...

John, Fr. Faherty's book was "A Wall for San Sebastian". When it was made into a movie, the title was changed to "Guns for San Sebastian".

Anthony Quinn was the hero. Dad had the book somewhere. Fr. Faherty also taught history at St. Louis University.

I am thinking that I got him confused with another Jesuit who drove the yellow Jeepster. I do remember sitting in the back seat, surrounded by baskets of groceries.

So much for the trip down memory lane.

Anonymous said...

Jim, I was with Dad one day back in the early 80's and we went to the Western Auto Store that used to be on Campbell next to Machinos Hardware. As we walked into the store this couple came out with two boys and a brand new go-cart. They were trying to put the go-cart in the trunk of the car when Dad offered to put it in his pickup and drive it to their house. They were overwhelmed by his kindness and accepted. Dad and I drove to Stockton Mo to deliver the go-cart. Took the whole afternoon. Seemed like a big waste of time until you looked in those kids eyes as they drove off in the cart. The only form of payment Dad would accept was for the couple to perform an act of kindness for a stranger. "When I was 14 I couldn't believe how dumb my Father was. When I turned 21, I couldn't believe how much my Father had learned in 7 short years." Mark Twain

Anonymous said...

Sorry buddy, but you got taken. In the last 20 years alot of scum has been transplanted to the Ozarks, mostly from the west coast. If you see somebody that needs help you give it. You dont expect to be paid to help and you dont expect anything in return. If you need help you dont ask for it, the help will usually arrive on its own. Thats one reason I find the situation that the women found themselves in suspect. If they were truly in distress I'll guarantee that somebody would have stopped to help them for free. The fact that they gave you a sob story just means they had a well rehearsed line of BS. Also had they been honest they would have stopped you when they had enough fuel to get home. The fact that you put in gas in the tank should have cause embarrassment and 10 dollars more than was necessary should have made the embarrassment intolerable to a native. If you run into them again I wouldn't give them a penny but I'd be happy to buy them a greyhound ticket to all points west