I alluded to this incident a few posts ago, but just now found my camera and got the picture off it. The scene, somewhere in Kentucky I believe. Tired from a long haul we search for a motel with reasonable rates. Our first two stops are a bust. Then we pull into a no-name budget motel. Rossana hops out to inquire what the rates are. I look out the van window and see the following:
There are no cans and no other signs of decoration. After a minute or two a young mans steps out of the motel office. He's dressed in a cheap windbreaker and a baseball hat and jeans. He gets in the truck and pulls up to a parking spot. Some kind of intense discussion is taking place.
Rossana comes out with a room key. The room rate must be acceptable. We pull ahead and park the van. As Lindsey and Rossana haul the overnight bags to the room I stare back at the truck. Who are these kids? One can create a pretty good narrative just looking at the situation. No friends or family with them, plain dress, and now debating whether they have the funds to get a cheap motel room. Part of me knows that these two are not in for an easy go of it. That they might well be divorced in a year, maybe less, but not before she gets knocked up and goes back to living with her mom. There was just something so sad about this little drama.
I walked back to the office, the young man had found a coupon from one of those travel magazines they have at the rest stops and was literally counting change.
"I'm sorry to interrupt, but are you the man who just got married?"
The kid blinks at me and grins sheepishly. "Yeah, I am."
Man, this kid is what? 19? 20? I recall how I both had and knew jack squat when I was his age, but was smart enough not to consider getting married.
I looked at the motel manager. "I'll be paying for this gentleman's room for this evening. How much is it?"
The manager does a double take and looks down "Um, $51.85"
I pull out a fifty and a one. "Can you cover the eighty-five cents?" I ask the kid.
He's looking art me like I just grew a new eye on my forehead.
"Uh, sure. " he fumbled for a single "I must say sir, that's about the kindest thing anyone has ever done for me" His drawl is thick and twangy.
If this is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for him, he's had a far shittier life than me. I've been blessed by good luck and a lot of help over the years from all kinds of people. Thanks to them I never had my gas turned off or a car repossessed or went hungry or had to sleep in my car. And I never forgot it. I never once have thought of myself as a 'self made man'.
"I've had people do nice things for me over the years. Someday you might be able to do the same for someone else."
I wanted to pass on some words of wisdom. Something that might bring about some epiphany or grant him some level of enlightenment or encouragement. But I couldn't think of anything. Besides, the lobby of a cheap motel is not the place to pass on life lessons, also, I didn't want to seem like some weird stalker type. I shook his hand and wished him good luck and safe journeys. Then I walked out.
As I walked back to our room a small part of my brain wondered if maybe this wasn't some kind of scam. Hang around a motel looking forlorn and hoping someone, either the motel manager or a passerby will take pity of you. Was I a sucker? If it was, it was a pretty clever scam. But no, they were already there when we pulled up, and the manager wasn't giving him any kind of break.
I think things were as they seemed. And my stepping in isn't going to change the course of their lives any. It's likely things will unfold as I predicted. But maybe not. Sometimes one small break can make a difference. That's good enough I guess. Anyone else done something strange like this?