Thursday, September 08, 2005

How I Came Into Possession of One Can of Maxwell House Rich Original Coffee

I was stopped at a traffic light, across from the gas station in downtown New Haven. I noticed something weird going on in the car parked next to me--the driver, a man, seemed to have just walked off in some sort of huff. I think he gave me A Look before he left. Curious, I pulled up slightly to get a better view of the passenger's side, er, passenger. It was a woman, seemed around middle aged, reclining slightly in her seat, eyes closed and one hand clamped on her temples as if exasperated or pained. Maybe there was a disagreement? I decided it was best to ignore the situation and refocused my attention on Delilah's latest caller.

Suddenly, I was jarred from my radio reverie--that lady in the car had roused and now seemed to be trying to get my attention. She got it. I opened the window, and she said, "I know this is going to sound weird, but my boyfriend and I ran out of gas, and we have no cash, and I just went grocery shopping....can I sell you some groceries for real cheap?" I glanced at the light, which was still red, then looked back at her somewhat quizzically. Assuming this was a scam (albeit a rather bizarre one), I politely shook my head and told her that I had no cash on me either--which was, in fact, true. Then the light turned green, so I headed past the gas station and rounded the corner onto Elm.

Stopped at a second light moments later, I had second thoughts. What if she was telling the truth? Why did I so automatically assume that she was trying to manipulate me somehow? Is this the curse of city living--we are bombarded daily by so many who ask for money that we not only become desensitized to their plights, but also resentful and defensive towards any stranger's plea for help? I felt a pang of guilt...just as the orange empty tank sign flashed its warning signal on my dash. Speaking of running out of gas...what irony. It suddenly occurred to me that if I were to run out of gas right now, and my debit card was inexplicably denied, I might find myself in the very same predicament as this couple. Guilt melted into empathy. I let myself continue to round corners until I had completed a full circle and once again pulled up to my gasless, cashless new friends.

"Excuse me, maam..." I ventured through my open window. She poked her head out.
"Hey, it's me again." This was sort of awkward. Now *she* was the skeptical one.
"So...I don't have any cash, as I said, but I do have a credit card, and I actually need some gas myself. If you can pull up to the station across the street, I'll pay for $5 in gas." I wasn't sure how she would respond, but she immediately accepted my offer and jumped into the driver's seat to pull out behind me.

We did the deed. I paid for this lady's 1.2 gallons of gas (of course, I forgot that in today's market, five dollars barely buys enough gas to make it out of the gas station!), she thanked me profusely, and we parted. But not before she practically forced me to take something from her grocery shopping; it was either coffee or some sort of pasta, so I chose coffee. Maxwell House Rich Original.

And that's how I got it.


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