Acts of kindness never cease to amaze me. This past Saturday was no exception.
After parking my car in the busy Old Port district of Portland, I needed a parking pass to place on my dashboard. The kiosk to buy the pass stood on the sidewalk a few car lengths in front of me. However, I decided to scan Facebook for awhile, so I picked up my iPhone and tossed my keys on the seat beside me.
Once finished scanning, I tucked the phone in my purse, got out of the car, and pressed the electronic lock on the inside of the door. Immediately upon shutting the door, I remembered my keys on the seat.
Panic set in. How could I put a parking pass on the dashboard? Even worse, what if a meter maid patrolling the street gave me a ticket? Cha-ching. Cha-ching. The extra expense of that violation now consumed my thoughts.
Ducking inside a nearby deli, I spotted a man behind the counter wearing a toupee. I explained my dilemma and asked if he knew of a locksmith.
"Actually, that man sitting over there can help you." He pointed to an older gentleman with a full head of real hair the color of salt and pepper. "John locked his keys in his car last night, so it's fresh on his mind."
John looked up from working on his laptop when he heard his name. He reminded me of my uncle with his bushy eyebrows and the slight gap between his two front teeth. He asked if I had a certain roadside service, which I won’t mention, and said they showed up within 12 minutes from the time he called the previous evening.
"No." My shoulders slumped. "I let my membership run out several years ago. Do you know of a locksmith?"
I could see John contemplating my predicament. "Let me call them. I’ll say you're with me."
I’m sure I looked stunned standing there with my mouth wide open. And yes, I know such roadside services are to be used only for cars owned by the person holding the membership. However, thank you was all I could mutter at that moment. I told John the description of my car and pointed to it outside the deli window.
John wrote down my car information, and then called the roadside assistance on his cell.
"I'll be right back. I need to buy a parking pass, which I can't put in my car since I don't have a key to unlock it!" I tried to sound humorous, but in reality I just wanted to have proof that I paid for the parking spot if an officer showed up.
John nodded as he waited for someone to answer his phone call.
I returned to the deli with my pass in hand and settled in for the wait. The only people in the restaurant were John, the deli owner with the toupee, a twenty-something laptop user and me. An old fisherman with weathered skin and a bulbous mole between his brow and nose soon joined our little group of oddballs. Well, maybe I’m not all that odd, but my situation sure was.
I revealed tidbits of my current life when asked but was unable to concentrate fully on the conversation. I was concerned an officer was going to put a ticket on the windshield of my car. I felt like an oscillating fan as I turned back and forth between looking out the window and talking with the men.
Twenty minutes passed until the guy working for the roadside assistance drove up. In no time flat, he had the car unlock. His handiwork didn’t cost me anything since John had that free service on his membership plan.
Those men in the deli weren’t so odd after all. An old cliché came to mind that day. I’ve inserted a couple new words for emphasis as a reminder of John’s kindness. Don’t judge a good book by its odd cover.