I had been driving since 2AM.
I was tired.
And freaked out enough to start longing for the days when normalcy was starting to feel suffocating.
There's no reception on the iPhone. Or the BlackBerry. Howard Stern was on Sirius. It was a rerun from a few years ago. I actually remeber listening to the very same episode when on my first date with the radio DJ who took a lot of photos back in grad school. I look at myself in the mirror and for a snippet of time I could revisit that point in time. I would have never thought at that point in time that I'd be driving more to the north than I'd ever done before and that I wouldn't be listening to as much radio or go to as many photography galleries.
But this is not a post about existentialism. It's about being lost in the middle of nowhere North and not letting the irony of the situation get lost.
There's fog everywhere. No lights. I see this inn and I decide to knock. After all the Open sign was lit up. Let's hope for the best, I tell myself.
An older gentleman came down. I ask, "Hi, uhm, are there no gas stations around here? Uhm, I ran out of gas. Can I use your phone?"
I realize that my speech did not come across as clear as I usually intend it to be when talking to someone for the first time. The man then said, "you're welcome to use the phone. My name's Gary." I fidget with the BlackBerry. I lie in an effort to sound calm, cool, and collected. "Oh, I have, uhm, about a bar on my phone. I can call from it." Right after I say it, I realize I'm unnecessarily fibbing. The man just wants to help.
I get the card out of the wallet, call Roadside Assistance and, luckily, they say they're just an hour away.
Garry tells me that he works in construction. His hands look weathered and like he's worked with mortar and shovels his whole life.
"I'm making some coffee for myself. You're welcome to some." he says. I decline apologetically and tell him that I'll just wait for the Roadside Assistance people to show up. Right after declining the coffee offer, instinct tells me I should be more agreeable. "Maybe I'll have some of that coffee, actually, thanks."
"It's not too bad, this." He says. "I bought it in ..." and he said the name of a town I can't now recall. I should have paid more attention but I didn't. I was trying too hard not to feel like I was in a cliche.
We sit. I ask him about his work experiences. He says he works seasonally mostly and that he's been in construction for some 30-odd years.
I make a comment about the inn. "This is quite a place."
"They say it's haunted," Gary says.
Somehow, I got a kick out of that sentence. In any other script, the sentence would denote some sort of interesting turn in the plot. After all, it was Halloween eve.
In reality, it was just two strangers making conversation. I, a 5.2 light-haired person in heels and raincoat who ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere because I got too distracted by Howard Stern to stop and fill up before I hit the 'no cell reception zone' and he, a kind-hearted small town construction worker who did what he could to be helpful and hospitable.
I ask about the interior design of the place. The quilt on the wall was a nice touch.
"How about a cookie?" he asks. "More coffee?
"Oh no, thanks, I don't do sweets in the morning, or generally, for that matter." Right as I say it I tell myself to drop it down a notch and leave my city, quirky ways by the wayside. I looked at myself in the third person at that point and all I could see was a bundle of vanity. Funny that. Instantly I say,
"Thanks. This is so nice of you, Gary. Good cookie." I take half a bite and keep the rest in my hand.
The roadside assistance person shows up. His name is Jim. He shows me how to find the nearest gas station, a mere 30 miles down the road. Then he gets out of the car as I'm filling up and he asks, "you should get a jerry can, honey."
Maybe I was too tired and slightly disoriented but I had to ask him what he meant. "How do you mean, Jim?" "In case you run out of gas again down these parts." I still don't know what the thing was but I concur with him right away, anyway. "Yes, Jim, I should, shouldn't I? So, where can I get one?" I figured I'd know what it was when we got there. We go to a Husky and they didn't have it. "Let's go to Chevron", he says. "They'll have it. I'll meet you there", he says. And that he does. I follow him and I see him grab a red container. Ha. I laugh to myself. It's a fuel container also known as a jerry can. Why, jerry though? Upon coming home, I do some research on the term and I find out that it originated in Germany during World War II, Jerry obviously being a wartime name for Germany and Germans.
"How come I don't know this?" I ask myself incredulously.
But I digress.
I thank Jim for taking such good care of me. I think of what someone in my life always tells me for some reason. He always says that he finds it interesting how I always manage to land on my feet.
I always get somehow vexed at his observation as I somehow associate it with lack of effort on my part.
But, no, on this long drive I think I got it. Maybe it does take a small measure of talent to being open to being helped. Maybe, it's stature that makes one susceptible to it. Or language use. Whatever it is, I am glad that it presented itself at 5AM on a small town in the middle of nowhere with no cell reception, gas stations, and fog, a lot of fog right on Halloween Eve.