by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
May 11, 2010
WHAT WOULD I DO WITHOUT THEM?
BRADENTON, Fla., May 11, 2010 -- I was a goner. I was in the middle of a very busy intersection when my car ran out of gas and I drifted into the nearest northbound lane of Cortez Rd. at 43rd St. W., trying to start it in neutral to no avail. After a few yards, I stopped. Even with my flashers on, it was only a few second before someone sat on their brakes and screeched to a stop behind, narrowly missing my back bumper.
I don't think it was a full minute, though, before a big, shiny white pickup pulled up behind me and the driver got out. I just sat there, depressed by my options. It was about 8:11 PM.
I had just gotten off the phone a half hour earlier with our web host, San-Jose, Calif.-based ASonic.net. I'd gotten an invoice for one of the domains I own. newshog.net, and called to pay the $9.95 I owed to renew it. When they ran my credit card. though, they took $41, and I only had $44 in the bank. A few minutes later they reversed the charged, but it wouldn't credit back to my Bankamerica account uintil the next two or three days. That meant I could afford a gallon of gas - if I had a can. I didn't, not liking the thought of someone ramming my fiberglass trunk and the car exploding like a latter-day Pinto.
I'd left home abiout 15 minutes ago to pick up a list of people to cakll for a fundraiser I was doing for our school board [president, who is running against a Republican with tons of money and has only raised $450 herself. I picked up the voter list on 43rd St, W., and was headed directly back home to watch "Lost" at 9. I feel some kinship with the people on that island
The fellow got to the window. He was a big guy in a sweatshirt and looked like a weightlifter. He had short hair and a strong voice. "I'm out of gas," I said, a bit forlorn. I've run out of gas at least three times in the past year, all but once because of being broke.
"The first thing we have to do is get you off the road," he said. "I can push you up on the (grassy) median or use my push bumpers to push you to a parking spot down the street." I preferre3d the media, so I started to get to push. "You stay there," he said. "I'll push. But we have to get a little momentum first." He told me to take the brake off and steer it up over the low curb when he told me, I did, and I was safe, but without gas.
By the grace of God, I had a $5 bill in my pocket. Ironically, I had given another $1 I'd had to a black guy sifting through the butt can for a cigarette outside McDonald's last night. Another diollar had gone for coffee the day before. That $7 had lasted me a good part of a week, and this was the last of it. But with the $41 charge not restored, and without a gas can, I was still unlikely to be able to get both gas and a can, and with one exception, I've never noticed gas station folks to be particularly cxompassionate.
I didn't want to tell my big friend my problems. It would sound like I was one of those guys you meet in gas station parking lots who come up and say they need a few bucks for gas to get home. I did now have a new perspective on them. But my friend volunteered to go to the station a ways down the road and see if he could come back with some gas. I gave him the battered $5 bill.
Almost as soon as he left, a Manatee County Sheriff's deputy saw me on the median as he approached from behind, came down the street and turned around at the next intersection. He pulled onto the grass facing me and got out of the car. I told him the other guy had gone for gas, but he'd said he had to stop at Walgreen's first.
"Did you give him money," he asked? I said yes and he and he rolled his eyes a bit. His name tag said "Butler."
"I think he'll come back," I said. "He looked like a good guy." I told him we had no gas can, so he went back to his car and radioed other patrol cars to ask if any had one. A few minutes a Bradenton police car pulled up beside him. The two conferred; the first officer came back to me. "None of my guys have a gas can," he said. He thought for a minute.
"I don't want you to get slammed from behind here," he said. "I can push you off the road to a parking lot." I said that anyone who hit me would have to be way off the road themselves. He went around the back of the car and looked. He nodded. That wasn't likely.
"The other guiy will be back in a few minutes," I said.
"I can push you," he said again; he wanted to get me off the median anyway. It was time to resolve this, his eyes said. Just then the white truck with my friend appeared at the intersection north of us.
"There he is," I said.
"Sweet," he said. A few seconds passed as the white pickup approached. "Sweet," he said again.
My friend pulled the truck up on the median behind me again. He got out with a small, bright red, new can of gasoline.
"Did they loan it to you?" I asked, my eyes probably a bit agape.
"No," he said. "I bought it. It wasn't much." I stumbled over myself trying to thank him. I asked what it cost and he said $5. No problem. "People should help each other," he said. I agreed with that. I told him I do it myself. "Let's see if this works," he said.
I got back in the car and started the engine. It roared to life. I asked him has name.
"Butler," he said. But that was the name of the guy in uniform, from the Sheriff's Dept., with the name tag. It seemed to me he wanted that guy, who had also made an effort to help, to get any credit that might ensue. But maybe they were kin. "I'm a sheriff's deputy, too," he added.
I puilled off the median into traffic, gave them a toot on my horn and checked the clock. It was 8:26 PM. Plenty of time left to see Lost.
I kept thinking about those guys and my impossible situation, not having even enough for a gas can and a gallon of gas until my social security check arrives. And how, in the space of a few minutes, three complete strangers came out of nowhere, each trying to help.
You know how it makes you feel. You get a little choked up.
I would give you dollars to donuts these guys were church-going people, especially the first one, and probably Republicans, too. Yet how readily Americans will reach across the boundaries of faith, ideology and personal space to help a human being in need, even at a cost to them. The day of the Haiti quake, hundreds of millions of dollars gushed out of our pockets like that broken drillpipe spewing oil into the Gulf. The same with a dozen other things over the past year. And an innumerable number of things for centuries.
Don't give up on America. It's not about your last cent or the desperation; it's about who we are to one another. Trust us. Don't give up on our politics when people seek so desperately to divide. There is something so good and great at our core that we will never be lost.