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Silken Laumann

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Random Acts of Kindness

Posted: 11/30/11 03:50 PM ET

Last week I was driving back from Mount Washington with my girlfriend Karin when I chanced to look at my gas gauge. Chanced, may be a clue to the systematic way I remember my gas levels. The gas was getting pretty low and we had just left the main town of Courtenay, British Columbia. Karin's eyes went big, and she advised I get off the highway and find some gas immediately!

The day had already been long, and I was trying to get home in time for a Friday night date with my hubby. Like a horse coming home to the stable, my mind became totally focused on the fastest route home for date night. I wanted to find a gas station immediately adjacent to the highway. So, I pushed on, driving past the exit with the little gas sign on it. Immediately my gas signal light came on. Karin's face started to turn red.

Don't worry, I assured her, I have 50 km once this light turns on. That day we discovered there are no highway side stations for the 90 km between Courtenay and Nanaimo. As I drove on stubbornly, the light went from amber to red. Finally I decided to get off the highway and follow the exit signs to a gas station in Parksville. Only the station was very far from the highway. The less fuel we had the more red Karin became and the more this seemed to set us off in giggles. Going down small declines I put the car in neutral, which sent Karin into safety mode around braking. I put the hazard light on when Karin said, "Wouldn't it be funny if this little town gas station is closed on Sunday nights?" More giggles.

When we pulled into the gas station, no lights were displayed on the tanks, but the door of the little store was wide open. Karin suspected a robbery, particularly as two pickup trucks had zoomed out of the station moments before our arrival. Inside the store a tiny, elderly Chinese lady stood behind the store counter with a candle. When we asked about gas she said "no gas." When we asked how far to the nearest gas station, her son told us that a tree had collapsed over the bridge making it impossible to get into town, and taking the power down in the entire area. No power, no gas. No date night.

The men in my life who I have shared this story with don't understand how I could run out of gas, and certainly don't get why we found it funny. But we did, and there at 5 p.m. on a Sunday night, now dark thanks to the stupid daylight savings time, we were in a tiny town with no gas, no way of getting gas, and no hotels. And that's when a young women, also looking for gas said to us, "I have a Jerry can for my lawnmower." Not in the back of her car, but in her garden shed.

On her insistence she drove home, found the Jerry can which had about $5 of gas in it, and funneled it into our car. When I started the car, it was still on empty. We thanked her profusely, and she didn't want money, but we also knew we didn't have enough to get to the next station. At this point she said to us, "My boyfriend has more gas." And so, with us protesting the entire time, she called her boyfriend and he drove from 10 km away to meet us at the station. Ten minutes later the boyfriend arrived, a big burly guy in jeans and a baseball cap. He had a big Jerry can. He poured the contents of the can, roughly $20 of gas, into our car. Again, no money wanted. In fact when I went to hand him a bill, he almost started to run the other way.

While I was in the candlelit store buying some water and snacks for the ride home, Karin shared with the fellow and his lovely girlfriend that I was an Olympic athlete who did a lot for other people. "You're helping a good person" Karin said, and with this, he threw his arm around his girlfriend and disappeared into the night. Random acts of kindness happen anytime, anywhere, from all kinds of people.

Thank you again.

-Silken

 

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