Let me tell you what happened at the Dollar store the other night.
After stepping back into the parking lot with my yellow plastic bags, I stopped abruptly as I noticed the rear wheel of Paul’s Hyundai was flat.
“You got a flat!” hollered Ann, the manager, from the doorway.
“Ah, man…” I sighed. It’s always this way, isn’t it, when you just want to go home after a long day, shower and eat. And naturally, I’d left my cellphone at home to re-charge.
“Want me to call Paul?” Ann offered. I gratefully agreed and we waited for several rings while Paul, at home on the couch, watching Jeopardy, was enjoying his first martini and out of earshot (or so he later claimed) of his phone on the other side of the house. A second attempt, complete with message, also went ignored.
Before deciding whether I should try to change the tire myself or begin the 2 1/2 mile trek home in cheap flip flops and Paul’s boxers peeking out below my extra long t-shirt, a Jeep pulled up alongside the Hyundai of which a heavily-tattoed man and his pre-teen son stepped out and in an eye blink, the man took note of my flat and without a moment’s hesitation, asked if I’d like the tire changed.
“That’s very kind,” I replied, “But don’t you want to go home? You don’t want to get all dirty and sweaty changing a tire.”
He stated matter-of-factly that it was no trouble and enlisted his son to help. Sliding beneath the car, the spare tire was located and the discovery was then made that there were no tire tools whatsoever in the back.
“It’s a used car we bought recently and I just don’t think we checked that.” I admitted meekly.
“No problem, I’ve got some in mine.” he said, and after rummaging in the back of his Jeep, secured the necessary tools.
The next obstacle was that a lug wrench was needed to gain access to the spare, which he didn’t have. Strike two. But lo! Here into the parking lot arrived my second guardian angel, a local fellow that I’d run into at this same store on a few occasions, but my first angel apparently knew him well.
“Hey Kris!” he yelled as the older red truck slid into a space. “You gotta lug wrench?”
“Yep.” Kris nodded and strode over, bearing his gift.
“You guys are so great,” I sighed, as they both set about the task. “I’ll bet all you wanted to do was pop in, grab a six-pack and head home.”
“I don’t drink beer.” said my first angel.
Before I could give my condolences, my attention was diverted by a third man, exiting the store and calling out loudly over his shoulder to the male cashier. “Vote poor! I’m tellin’ you, vote poor!”
Turning around, he caught sight of the three of us and offered more philosophy. “I was just tellin’ that boy in there, the rich folks don’t care about him. Vote poor! The rich is just gonna look after their own interest and leave everybody else in the dirt. Vote poor!”
“I guess I know how to vote, now.” I mouthed to Kris.
“Poor.” said Kris.
“Listen up, the rich is always gonna do whatever it takes to make more money. They don’t care about the rest of us!” he continued to yell, even though he was but a few feet away at this point.
“Don’t say that around her,” said Kris, jerking his head at me. “She’s rich.”
“I’m not rich.” I said, shocked. “Would I be standing in a parking lot at 8:00 p.m. with a $3 bottle of Dollar Store Chardonnay if I were rich?” At that moment, a black convertible Mercedes oozed in beside us. “Now, he’s rich!” I pointed out. “But I’ll bet he ain’t gotta a lug wrench.”
The driver, catching my comment, appraised the trio before him and carefully reversed and left the lot with alacrity.
“Vote poor!” we yelled after him.
The tire was changed, the flat shoved into the back of the Hyundai and my heroes were wiping the grit off their hands.
“Can I at least tip you guys or something?” I offered, genuinely wanting to show my appreciation. This was flatly refused. I looked at the son and said, “Your dad just gave you a great example of helping out a complete stranger for nothing in return. Remember that when you grow up.” and to the father I added, “Jewels in your crown, sir. Thanks so much.”
It was a great evening for all kinds of lessons. As I drove home, I mused over the tattoos I’d seen and recognized them as very similar to ones on prominent display by gang members in Los Angeles. Don’t ask me how I know that, you just pick up that sort of stuff when you live in a city of 18 million for 15 years. And I’d finally learned Kris’ name after saying ‘hey’ to each other on numerous occasions as we stood in line. I’d even learned a new political philosophy. But the best thing I learned was when I arrived home.
Dollar Store Chardonnay, if served sub-freezing, will get you through in a pinch.