It’s the holiday season. It is officially the last #MillenialFriday before Christmas 2018. If Love Actually has taught us anything it is that Christmas is the time of year for hope and love and treating each other right. (And telling the truth? Does anybody else get thrown off by that line? What was up with that? Anyway…) This isn’t a tell all or confession of feelings because it’s Christmas, but a reminder to take care of each other. The people you know and even those you don’t.
I was hand delivered a reminder of this sentiment two short weeks before Christmas.(Last weekend.) After a fun weekend away in snow-capped Vermont mountains, I had a long six-hour bus trip ahead of me to make it home. The first leg of the trip goes off without a hitch! I make my bus in Killington, VT to Queche, VT. I get to Queche at 11:45 a.m. where I’m expected to hop on a shuttle to make it to Lebanon, NH before my next bus at 1:00 p.m. Lebanon is 15 minutes away and I have 75 minutes to make the trip. How could I not get there?
I get off the bus at a nondescript gas station in Queche and head inside to speak with the cashier. “Hi, I just got off the bus from Killington, and I need to get to Lebanon, NH. I read there was a shuttle?” I asked her.
“No, shuttle here.” she replied, which was not what I was expecting her to say.
A bit confused, I asked her “So, how do people usually get to the next bus.”
Very blunt, she explained my, impossible to have in 2018, situation, “I’m not sure. We don’t have Uber or taxis here. But feel free to use our tables while you figure it out.”
Surely, she’s mistaken. Who doesn’t have Uber? I thanked her pulled out my phone, and low and behold, a message I’ve never seen on the Uber app as a city dweller: “NO CARS AVAILABLE”. Even though I’m accustomed to the luxury of Uber, I’m not so tech-dependent that I can’t think of a time when Uber didn’t exist at all. So I Googled cab companies, and I find one! Four miles away. The gas station cashier must have meant there wasn’t a taxi in Queche, but there are cabs nearby. I call. A voice picks up and says hello. Sonically, his voice sounded like the only voice I’d trust to drive me on a Vermont mountain in the dead of winter. Everything he said sounded like he had said it a thousand times before. I told him where I was headed, mind you this is maybe noon.
He asked, “Well what time does your bus leave?”
I explain, “I have to be there by one.”
“Well I couldn’t even pick you up ‘til 1:45, sorry ‘bout that. Best of luck though.”
I hang up.
So the question that I’m sure is in you mind was very much in mine: What the hell do I do? It’s 15 miles so I can’t walk. Can’t call a car. I’m three hours from anyone I know. I did the next thing that came to mind. I went to the ATM, I paid the $3.00 fee, and took out $40.00 then walked outside this, thankfully high traffic, gas station.
I begin sizing people up. Do they look nice? Do they look in a hurry? Could they kill me? Do they think I would kill them? There’s a Massachusetts license plate, maybe they are headed my direction? Then I have to swallow any pride and start asking.
“Excuse me sir, sorry to bug you, any chance you’re headed by Lebanon, New Hampshire?”
For all intents and purposes, I’m hitchhiking. I’m college educated, gainfully employed, 25 years old, and hitchhiking. I’m greeted by a few “No’s” and “Wish I was, sorry’s”, maybe three or four before I even realize what it is that I’m doing. I stop. I ask myself, “What the fuck are you doing?” You’re begging for a ride. This is crazy. That line of thinking quickly ends and is overtaken by a much louder voice, “I don’t care if you’re embarrassed, you have to get home.” I continue to ask.
I face a few rejections, five turns to ten, then a dozen, now it’s 12:30, I’m 15 minutes away from a bus that leaves in 30 minutes. The window is closing. I begin to take rejections a little less easier than I was. Instead of hearing “no” and wishing them a nice day, “no” is met with “It’s 15 minutes away, I can give you money.” The rejections keep rolling in.
I’m standing on the corner of the this gas station and a nice middle aged lady walks up and with a smile hands me some unsolicited advice, “Don’t stay out here too long! You’ll freeze!”
I half-heartedly explain my situation with a smile, “Yeah, I’m just trying to make my bus.”
Concerned, she asks, “Well, where’s that?”
Not getting ahead of myself I tell her, “Lebanon, New Hampshire”.
Almost excited, she joyfully tells me, “I know where that is! The bus stop? That’s not far at all.”
“Wanna make forty bucks?” I ask her bluntly, I’m about out of time for pleasantries.
“Don’t be ridiculous! I can drive you. Come on, get in!” She tells me.
I get in her car. I’m past the point of asking questions. She seems harmless. I get in and introduce myself; she does the same. Then we begin talking, or rather she begins talking. I hardly get a word in as she starts telling me that she likes to help people because she’s needed help in the past. Everyone needs help sometimes. I can’t stress this enough, the car ride is only fifteen minutes, but she tells me her life story. Luckily, she knew where she was going because there were no interruptions for directions. And she told me the saddest story I have ever heard. It is her story so I won’t regurgitate it here, but it was tragic. Brutal. And even still she showed me a great kindness.
Here I was, thinking not making a bus and getting stranded in upstate Vermont was one of the worst things that could happen to a person. Talk about a lesson in perspective.
I told her I was very sorry to hear everything she had to go through. I tried to be compassionate. Empathetic. I tried to show her a fraction of the kindness she showed me. And yet, as I got out of the car to walk into the bus station, I once more said, “I’m so sorry. And thank you for the ride.”
She simply replied, “If all of that has taught me anything, it is that we are supposed to help each other. And you are very welcome.”
It wasn’t profound. It wasn’t some literary outlook on life. And yet, beautiful. We are supposed to help each other. The people who seem the most well adjusted my be struggling and in need of help, and help my come in the form of the most unlikely of allies. It was a lesson I needed to hear, and what a time of year to hear it. So I encourage you to help others, to ask for help, and to open your heart. Thank you for letting me share this and share something week after week.
Merry Christmas and Happy #MillenialFriday Love you.