I’m coming out of church last night. I’ve got Isabella on one arm and a diaper bag in the other.
A black Ford Explorer pulls up.
The old man driving it stops behind my car and rolls his window down.
“Sir, can you help me?”
I look at my daughter and then down at the diaper bag on my arm.
I should be asking him for help.
“Sure. Just a sec.”
I hand the kid off to her mother and make my way over to the passenger side of his car and our dialogue begins.
“I was laid off earlier this summer and I’ve lost everything. All I’ve got left is this car and I’m trying to get…”
I stopped listening when I looked down and saw a twenty dollar bill and a couple of ones sitting on his passenger seat.
Snapped back to reality by his question.
“…so do you think you could help me out with some gas money?”
“What about that money there in your passenger seat?” I ask.
“It’s not mine.”
“Well do you think you could spare some gas money for me?”
I respond, “I don’t really carry cash and if I did, I’m not really in the habit of just giving it out to people I don’t know. I’ll tell you what though, if you’ll follow me to the 7-11 at the corner of May and Wilshire (about a mile and a half from our church building and on my way home), I’ll put gas in your car.”
He asks, “Does their gas have Ethanol in it?”
“Uh… I’m not sure. Why?”
“Well I don’t put gas with Ethanol in it in my car. It’s not good for the engine. It’s like filling up with poison.” he tells me.
“Yeah… I hear that’s bad. I’m not sure if their gas has Ethanol in it or not.”
“Do you think you could just give me some cash so I can go somewhere they use 100% gas?”
Once again, silence.
I look him up and down, try to make eye contact (no luck), and wonder to myself how this is going to play out. Dumbfounded and a little bit taken aback by the audacity and boldness of his request, I finally respond.
“I’m actually headed to the 7-11 at Wilshire and May right now to put gas in my car. If you want to follow me there, I’ll put some in your car too. Otherwise, I can’t really help you.”
Another awkward silence.
“Hmmm… OK. Well… thanks anyway.”
He rolls up the window and drives off.
I get in my car, drive to the 7-11 where I proceed to start filling my trusty rubber-footed steed with
87 octane, all natural, from the goodness of the earth, corn enriched gasoline poison… $52 worth to be exact. I would have put just as much in his car too if he’d taken me up on my offer.
And so I’m left with two questions.
First, what is the world coming to when someone who’s hard up on their luck won’t accept my charity because it’s tainted with ethanol?
And second, why is the guy who just got laid off putting better petroleum products in his car than I am? What does that say about me and my pride of ownership?
Let’s just say that if the old rubber-footed steed knew what I was pumping into him, he would not be impressed.