Tag Archives: kindness of strangers

Damsel in Distress Part 759

It’s that time again. Time for me to dust off my recurring role as the damsel in distress. I’m beginning to fear I’ve been typecast by fate. So far this blog has entertained… well, not millions, but my definitely my husband as I lock my keys in the car, get stuck in the snow and give myself a black eye, just to name a few.

I have no one to blame but myself. Or my children, and the significant sleep deficit which is definitely their fault. But what kind of Mom blames her own children for her frazzled, overwhelmed and far-too-often absent minded performance?

This one. I blame them. I love them, but I blame this crazy, relentless, exhausting life and my subsequent doziness on those adorable mini people. I don’t know who I’m going to blame when they grow up and leave me.

cartMy latest drama begins in our local supermarket. I sped through my list as fast as humanly possible while the boy alternated between screaming at the top of his lungs (and he has some impressive pipes on him) and cheerfully pulling everything off the shelf as we rolled by. By the time I got to the checkout line I was frazzled and nearing defeat.

$188.33

More than I’d like, but par for the course these days for the feeding, cleaning and diapering a family of 6, at least in our part of the world. Four of us don’t even need diapers, so that’s a huge savings right there.

Feeling a little smug about my foresight, I pulled out my newly activated credit card. My wallet was stolen last week and I’ve been slowly re-making my plastic identity. It’s one of those extra tasks which seems insurmountable in the face of our usual daily grind. But I did it. I called the number. I even signed the back.

I did not, however, take note of the new pin number which would be arriving in the mail also.

*sigh*

So here we are, with a fully loaded cart of groceries, a half eaten bag of fishy crackers (see above re: screaming), a grumpy three-year-old, and the Perry the Platypus sticker he just stuck on my chin. Embarrassed, but not unused to this position, I tell my story and ask them to hold my groceries until I can return with yet another new credit card waiting patiently at home to be activated.

I felt so bad for the man waiting behind me. He had a bag of oranges and a couple bananas. He was about my age, but polished, put together. The kind of guy who drives a nice car and goes to the gym a lot.

I wonder what he saw as I stood there in my second-hand boots, bags under my eyes and hair falling out of its clip. My son whining and grabbing me while sporting a wicked black eye and a runny nose. I was cringing inside. Feeling judged. Feeling humiliated.

As the checkout lady begins to wheel our cart away, he says, “Wait!”

He leans over and peers at my receipt. He pulls out his credit card. He waves his hand, like it’s no big deal.

“I’ll pay for it. Then you won’t have to come back. It’s my gift to you.”

“Uhhh… oh no, no.” I stammer. “It’s, like, $200. Really, it’s okay.”

He insists. He pays. He acts like it’s no big deal.

This was an extremely rare moment for me. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t even know how to start. I was struck dumb. I hope I remembered to say Thank You. I hope I said it a lot.

As I packed my free groceries into the van, he began to drive away. I flagged him down, standing outside his window in the rain, so I could at least shake his hand and find out his name.

He told me that it seemed like I was having “a day,” plus having my wallet stolen and all… He said something about putting good out in the universe and it’d come back eventually. His name was Nick.

I had a lot of feelings about this. My first was pride. I didn’t want to seem pathetic (though, let’s face it, I probably was), and I could take care of it myself. My second was practical, and just a little bit mercenary. I’m going on a trip this month that falls outside our budget and we are feeling it. $188.33 is a lot of money to us. My biggest feeling, however, the one that has followed me around ever since, was bone-deep, soul shaken, faith-in-humanity-restored, just got a-hug-from-God, giddy and amazed GRATITUDE.

It’s not the $188.33. It’s not the time, hassle and embarrassment saved. It’s the unexpected, unsolicited, unassuming grace of the moment.

I’ve been tasting it ever since.

And that’s worth a whole lot more than $188.33.

$188.33

So here’s me, thanking Nick. Because I needed that. 


Relying on the Kindness of Strangers

Blanche Dubois, a character in the play A Streetcar Named Desire, is NOT my ideal woman. I’ve always thought she was pretty much an idiot. As she is led off to a mental institution, bewildered and weak, she spouts her famous line “I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers”.

Apparently, she’s not the only one.

This afternoon I made a crucial error. I bumped the car door as I got out to fill it up with gas. Which apparently locked it. With the my keys inside. And my bag. And my phone. And my sanity!!!!

I was on my way to pick up my kids from school. Glen was unreachable. I felt the panic rising… What am I going to do? Who am I going to call? Why does my Dad have to live so far away?

The gas station attendant barely spoke english. Poor guy couldn’t understand what this crazy lady was babbling about. Each time I tried to explain the situation, he would ask if I wanted a receipt with that.

Using the international language of charades I managed to communicate my need for a phone and called the school to let the administration know that: I was a loser, and deadbeat parent, and had NO idea how or when I could get to the school to pick my kids up, and p.s. I’m kind of freaking out.

The school secretary was calm and understanding. She assured me everything would be fine; they would sort things out.

Thank you Mrs. L for being a friendly voice when I needed it most!

A young couple overheard my frantic call and witnessed my rather undignified mime to the clerk. They offered to help.

My new friend Nick rummaged through his van full of tools with a capable air. In one of my most unfeminist moments, ever, I let out a sigh of relief that a man had come to save me. Though, to be honest, a handywoman would have been every bit as welcome as a handyman.

When nothing seemed to work, they drove me home to fetch a wire coat hanger and waited while I pounded on the door and yelled “It’s MOM!”, trying to convince my at-home-sick eldest that just this one time she should come open the door. Back at the station, we spent another 1/2 an hour trying every trick in the book to jimmy the lock. I had never met these two before and maybe I never will again, but for that 1 hour, they were my best friends.

Thank you, thank you, thank you Nick and Megan!

Trying to break into a distraught lady’s car works like catnip for the macho-protector type. Guy in the blue hoodie, chef from the nearby Sushi restaurant, grey haired man in a sedan… they flocked to me, eager to weigh in on the process. Some tried their hand at my fishing-for-the-lock-with-a-coat-hanger game. It reminded me of that claw arcade game or something from a carnival. Step right up, for the ultimate test of skill and manliness! Sadly, much like the fair, no one can actually win this game.

Thank you random strangers for trying, anyway!

 Meanwhile, in the gas station, shift change (thank goodness). As I approached the woman my slow, deliberate speech probably seemed somewhat obnoxious and faintly racist. Especially considering her english was every bit as good as mine; probably better, since at this point I was pretty flustered. She didn’t blink as I made something like 27 calls on their phone – to the school, to my daughter, to the only friend’s number I could remember…

What? I don’t need to remember that kind of stuff. I have an iPhone, SO that I can have immediate access to every number I’ve ever called, tweet about the situation in real-time and keep Facebook posted on every boring detail. You know, for the times when I don’t lock the stupid thing IN THE CAR!

Thank you gas station lady for letting me tie up your phone lines!

Not only did the SEAs and teachers supervise my children during this time, they managed to unearth an old booster seat and drive them home. What’s more, we now have a poster coloured during this after school session which can commemorate this special time forever.

Thank you already overworked, underpaid teaching staff for going above and beyond the call of duty!

Despite the seemingly unending line of car-thieves-in-training, I decided to call BCAA. But apparently the membership is under my husband’s name. And he has to be there. With the card. And I can’t reach him.

Unfeminist moment #2, as I tell my sad story, beg for help… and cry. Like a pathetic, helpless girl who really wants her husband to rescue her. Or her Dad. Or MacGyver, ’cause I’m sure he could get me out of this with a toothpick and a piece of lint.

Anyway, the crying thing… totally works.

 Thank you soft-hearted man at the other end of the phone!

As I waited for the locksmith, it occurred to me, I didn’t have my wallet with me. Instead, it was by the front door. In my other purse. At home. Another fine move, on an already stellar day.

I was told I would need to provide ID, proving I was at least the WIFE of an account holder. Now, in a rational moment I would have thought: oh well, what are they going to do to me if they open the car and I don’t have the ID right there? Lock it all back up again? Sue me? Raise their eyebrows? Speak to me sternly?

All terrifying prospects, so I started calling my one phone friend, again (btw, sorry for all the messages/hang ups on your answering machine, you shouldn’t have such a memorable phone number if you want privacy and stuff). She was able to swing by my house and bring me my wallet.

Thank you G, for bailing me out! As usual! Please don’t ever, ever, ever change your number.

Now we get to the really EXCITING part of the story. The locksmith came and I recognized him. I played it cool, because he was obviously working hard to be incognito. He popped open that door in 20 seconds flat. He assured me it happens to everyone, which is what we call a “kind lie” in our house. He asked if my kids were okay. He told me not to worry.

He was slightly more svelte than I expected and he had shaved off his beard. But I recognized him: the white hair, the moustache, the rosy cheeks, the slightly German accent, the fatherly glow, the jolly… I’m sure it was him.

Thank you Santa-in-coveralls, for saving me. And my phone. And my sanity!

It’s easy to be cynical these days. In a world of Amber alerts, sex offenders and identity theft, strangers usually seem like a threat. We’ve had our credit card info stolen 3 times in the past few years. Our car has been broken into even more often than that. We’ve called the cops twice since we moved to this town; once because a man was being beaten senseless in our driveway. There are a lot of creeps out there.

But, if nothing else, today proved that there are a lot of good people in the world too!

So here’s me, not my finest moments… but I’m happy to know that the kindness of both friends and strangers is pretty reliable when I need it most.

When have you had to rely on strangers?

Also, any stories about locking yourself out? 

That helps me feel less stupid, or at least less lonely in my stupidity…


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