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Karma’s Gonna Get Me…Maybe

October 7, 2008

I stopped to get gas on my way home tonight. As I started pumping the gas, I noticed someone talking to the guy in the next car over. The driver was obviously uncomfortable and shaking his head. The driver was about my age, driving a shiny black Tahoe and looked like he just came off the golf course.

The young man he had been talking to came over to me next. He had a credit card in his hand. He said that he was sorry to bother me, but that he was almost out of gas, his card was declined, and he didn’t have any other money. Could I “spare some gas?” For some reason, I was uncomfortable too. I said, “No, I don’t have any extra money.” The guy thanked me and walked away.

I can’t explain why I was so uncomfortable, but I was. I watched the young man (he was younger than me, maybe in his 20’s – he made me think of my cousins) ask everyone else at the gas station. Everyone was obviously saying “No.” He looked nervous and humiliated. After I pumped my gas, I went inside to get something to drink.

As I walked in, I started to think, “Maybe I should just buy him some gas.” My first reaction, I guess, was that the guy didn’t really need the money. That he was just pulling a scam. But his car was in front of the pump, if he was out of gas and out of money, what would he do? Then he got in line inside the store. I asked him which car was his. He told me, then said he was going to ask the man behind the counter for some free gas. I don’t imagine that would go well. I asked how far he had to go, and he told me he was going to Richmond, about a half hour away. I told the clerk to ring up my drink and to put $10 on the #2 pump, where the young man’s car was parked.

When I walked past him pumping his gas, he was obviously telling his girlfriend what had happened. He said “thank you again.” I told him I was either a huge sucker, or I was due some good karma. He assured me it was the latter and thanked me again.

After I got in my car and started driving back to Richmond, I thought about what I had just done. I doubt this is some personification of the bad economy and high gas prices. I’m guessing this guy would have been in the same situation whether Wall Street was tanking or not. I’m not even sure he could be described as “down on his luck.” I’m sure he was on a road trip that he knew he could ill afford. But I can’t imagine that he expected to end up stuck at a gas station on the side of the interstate. Hopefully I saved him a little humiliation, a lot of hassle, and $10.

And hopefully, if I ever find myself in a tough spot like that, someone will do the same for me.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. JEC permalink
    October 7, 2008 4:34 pm

    I hope this was a “pay it forward” moment. It certainly could have been the truth–but it could have been a scam. Maybe he’s taking a road trip on free gas. (You can’t imagine that, but some people probably can.) Maybe you were part of a sociology experiment to see how many people would offer to help. Nonetheless, you did what seemed right to you, you didn’t risk giving away a lot of money, and you didn’t put yourself in danger. You didn’t have to ask yourself later whether he had received help or perhaps been stranded, so you don’t have any regrets. The only question I would ask is: If you had received that kind of help, wouldn’t you have asked for the person’s address and offered to pay him back? Now I can see how you might not have wanted to give your address–probably smart not to–but wouldn’t you have asked? The only way you’ll ever know for sure what was going on is if you run into the same guy, pulling the same gag, at another gas station. Your karma is safe, though. You showed compassion, and maybe someone who noticed, or the other driver himself, will follow your example and help someone.

  2. October 13, 2008 9:31 pm

    I probably would have told him “no” like everyone else and went on my merry way. After having a close friend practically living on the streets from a drug addiction, I just assume that every one who is asking for money is really asking me to fund their next hit. It’s definitely something I am not proud of.

    I think it is great that you gave despite your discomfort. I hope I can get there too.

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