If Karma actually exists, I’m pretty sure that I’ve used up my lifetime supply of good fortune.
Once upon a time….
When I grew old enough to get my drivers’ licence, my father allowed me the use of the car on Saturday evenings. I would drop my parents off at his gig as an emcee at a dance party just before 9 PM, and come back and pick them up, just after midnight.
Across the summer, some friends and I covered a wide range of the county. On into September, the new car models had been released, and we wanted to have a look at them at a car show over in the Big City. Perhaps Dad had heard of our exploits. Maybe we weren’t leaving enough gas in the tank. As I dropped them off, Dad said, “Don’t leave town.” Right, Dad.
We’d had summer jobs, but now that we were back in school, money was a bit short. We all kicked in 50¢ for gas, because, back then, $2 would fuel our little Vauxhall for most of a week. Then it was a half-hour, high-speed run to the arena. The rest of our pocket change got us into a show at 9:30, which was over at 10. We had a quick chance to drool over the new models.
When they kicked us out, I still had two hours before I needed to be back, but there might be other things to do, so the trip back was as fast as the one over. Suddenly, out in the country, a red warning light popped up on the dash, so I immediately pulled over and shut it down.
Ten miles from the city, fifteen miles from home, we were two and a half miles in either direction from two tiny crossroad villages – which were already shut down when we passed through earlier.
What’s the matter with it? I dunno.
Are we stuck out here? Probably.
What are we gonna do? I dunno.
Just before panic began to set in, a pair of headlights appeared from behind. We weren’t even smart enough to flag the driver down, but he pulled over anyway. It was a 21-year-old gear-head, driving around to impress his 18-year-old girlfriend with the old car that he was restoring. It didn’t look like much, but it purred when it pulled over.
What’s the matter? – A red light came on the dash.
It’s probably the fan belt. Do you have a flashlight?
No. – I’ll get mine.
He popped the hood and shone the light in. Sure enough, there was a decided lack of fan belt. From driving a little English car 10 miles, at 85 MPH??! Who knew? He said that it was a good thing that I’d pulled over right away. With the water pump and cooling system not working, I could have overheated the engine and damaged it. It probably wouldn’t have mattered. With the generator also not working, it was running off the battery. A couple more miles with the headlights on, and that would have died too. We were well and truly FUBARed.
He said, “I think I know a guy who can help. Hop in.” I snuggled in next to his girl, and we headed back to the city. On the way, he told me that he worked as a junior mechanic for a guy who ran a small garage and Esso gas station. In tourist country, and during tourist season, he pumped gas until 11 PM on Saturday nights.
It was ten after eleven when we arrived, and the lights were all off, but we could see the owner still finishing paperwork at his desk. My hero thumped on the door, and got us let in.
Buddy here blew a fan belt, out on the highway, and needs another one.
He went to the reference sheet, selected the correct one and lifted it down. Boss-man said that it cost about $6 – the equivalent of two hours labor. He looked at me and said, “You guys got any money?” We’re busted flatter than piss on a plate. He must have had a running tab for the parts and pieces that he needed for his chariot. “Put it on the list of stuff I owe you for, Mel.”
Soon we were heading back to the three friends I’d abandoned in the stygian darkness, and the car which had cooled to work on. “You got any tools? Duh!! “We’ll use mine.” He opened the trunk, and opened his toolbox. Changing a fan belt on that car was so dead simple, even I could do it. All we needed was an adjustable wrench. Still, I held the flashlight while he did the work. “Start it up.” It started and ran well, with no warning light. “Okay, you’re good to go.”
He was exactly the right person, at exactly the right time, in exactly the right place, with the right friends, the right tool set, and the right mindset. We were too naïve to even think of offering to mail him some money – which we didn’t have. Other than offering our sincere thanks, is there anything we can do for you? “Just pay it forward. If you see someone in trouble, and you can help, stop and offer it.” I like to think that’s a philosophy that I’d have engaged in, even without his urging. I didn’t ask him if he was a Good Christian. I don’t even remember exchanging names, but I remember his kindness.
Of course, after all of this, I didn’t make it to the appointed pickup spot, at the appointed time. When I finally arrived home, Mom was a little miffed that she’d had to walk half a mile, with her short little legs, in a tight skirt and heels, up a fairly steep hill.
After Dad demanded and got a complete explanation of what had happened, he was a bit more pragmatic. “This is why I told you not to leave town. Still, everything worked out nicely. I guess it’s better that it happened to you tonight, than to me on my way to work on Monday morning.”
And they all lived happily ever after.