Saturday, November 27, 2010

Human moments #s 62-67 (or I Could Have Died)

Hu·man mo·ment: -noun a time when you connect with a stranger on a more personal level than usual so as to develop at least a minimal friendship and better understanding of one another.

I had 4 minutes left of work on Monday when an elderly gentleman came to my register. "Hello, Lindsay, I'm Gene Walker."
"Oh, hello, Mr. Gene. Can I help you?"
"Did I meet you last week?"
"I don't believe so."
"Well, I met a young lady like yourself, affable and all, and she liked to type."
"Um, I don't know who you met, but... I like to type."
He continues. "I'm a Vietnam veteran, and I'm wanting someone to type out some of my writings for me."
"Would this be with through our copy and print department?"  We type pages for customers at an outrageous price.  $60 per full page.
"No.  This would be independent," he said directly.
"Weeeell, I get off in 4 minutes. How about I come find you when I get off work?"

I quickly found him once I clocked out and he said, "Wanna get some coffee?" I briefly thought about how strange this could be, but I said sure. We were trying to figure out where to get coffee since he didn't care for Starbucks because it's so fancy, and we settled on Burger King, but he didn't know how to get there. He said we could both go in my car. I briefly thought about how young ladies aren't really supposed to give rides to strange old men, but I said okay.

(Before you jump to conclusions, I promise that all this brief thinking does not get me hurt.  This is a happy story, albeit one where the heroine could have been killed.)

We walked over to my Explorer, and he points out his new Fusion to me as we pass it. "Ooh, it's beautiful," I say.
"Well, then we could take my car."
"All right!" I say without hesitation.  As we got in and as we were putting on our seat belts, I began rethinking my choice and I was hoping he didn't have any guns or knives.  I know, I know. It's terribly unwise, but I trusted him. That sounds so weird and foolish, but we had formed some kind of connection in the 25 minutes that we knew each other.  And, his beard was really cool.
Seriously, this is what Mr. Gene did.  He also got to fly John Wayne!
Anyway, at Burger King, he opened the door for me in gentlemanly fashion and bought my coffee, then we sat down to talk. He told me about how he had graduated from the University of Arkansas with a degree in geology, but he couldn't do much with that, so he went into the Army for 20 years as a helicopter pilot. "I never lost a soldier. I'm very proud of that." After the Army, he went into business management, became a professor @ Clayton State where he taught economics, management, leadership, and basic computer, and then he retired.  I told him about myself (family, education, work) at his request, and, really, I just enjoyed chatting with him over coffee.  I also felt just a little sheepish because the story of my life was only 22 years long instead of 73; I didn't have much to say.

Eventually he said, "Well, now, I want you to talk with your parents about all this, or your brother or whoever... and here's my driver's license, military license, and my health insurance (now you know how old i am)... The next step would be for you to follow me to my house to pick up the manuscripts. I sure hope Barbara [my wife] is home..." I explained to him that I'd be calling my parents as soon as I got into my own car to follow him on the way to his house, and I did. When I got a hold of my dad on the phone, I told him all the information I knew.  I gave him Gene's address, told him that Gene had purchased his new Fusion from the dealer shown on his "Applied for" tag, etc.  Dad listened very quietly and, when I finished, said, "Well, I'm trusting God.  Be safe.  Call me when you get there, and when you leave.  I love you."
"I love you, too, Dad," I said smiling.
Mr. Gene took me back to work so I could get my own car, and I followed him to his house which was only 5 minutes away in a thankfully familiar neighborhood. His wife was at home, and she was so pleased to see me! She was glad Mr. Gene had found someone to do the typing for these precious treasures, and she asked me about myself and asked me to sit down. Very friendly.

After chatting with Mrs. Walker, Mr. Gene went over pricing and logistics with me. He offered to get a legal document for all this, but he told me that, the way he sees it, he's purchased my skill of typing. There would need to be a deadline, but he was willing to let me set it, and the price would be at least $200. He told me that, if the project took more time than expected, I could haggle up, but $200 was the floor. "And be sure to spend this money on something for yourself. You gotta pay yourself sometime."
So now I have two new friends and four tablets of Vietnam stories on the table beside me.  I've already typed out the largest two, and I'm really happy with my quick progress.  It's been so interesting to read and to be absorbed in what was happening to Mr. Gene.  His stories shocked me, intrigued me, and made me laugh.

Tada!  Isn't that a wild and cool story?  I love it when things happen like that, when they just fall into your lap and you don't get screwed for being spontaneous and carefree.

I talked with three of my friends after the fact, all guys, and all of them chastised me for getting in the car with this stranger, but they all laughed a bit, too.  At least, I hope they all did.  One of these conversations led to discussing human moments a bit more, and I wondered: how many people who sit alone at the coffee shop want to be interrupted?  Good question.  I know I would like to be.  I'd be very interested to hear your thoughts on the matter.


  1. Oh, Lindsay, what a wonderful story! I'm convinced that sometimes we just know that it's all right to do something rather against "the rules." Thanks for sharing this, and enjoy those yellow tablets!

    - Annalise

  2. That is an amazing story!! God is so cool! :)

  3. Also, I can't believe you've never seen an Audrey Hepburn movie! How does this even happen? I say go and beg, borrow, or steal (k not steal) a copy of Roman Holiday right now!!

  4. Way to do the Jesus thing. :-) I'd love to hear some of those stories!

  5. Woaaaah!!!
    That's pretty incredible.
    Can you share some of his stories with us?


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