It is fair to say that I was in a foul mood. The combination of a sweltering hot day, an argument with Barry, the pressures of moving, unpacking and putting the finishing touches on our upcoming wedding had bubbled over, forcing me to calmly get into my car, cry a snotty cry and lose my shit just a little.
The trunk of the rental car that I was driving – all thanks to whomever smashed in the right quarter panel of my car and thought taking off without leaving a note was the right thing to do – was filled with clothing and home goods that I had been driving around with for days, repeatedly forgetting to drop off for donation. I drove to the closest Savers knowing that the folks there will unload your things, hand you a receipt and a coupon to use in the store: win win. It was 8:59 p.m. and they didn’t close until 10 p.m. so, I (incorrectly, as it turned out) thought it would be an uneventful interaction.
“Sorry, ma’am, we are no longer taking donations today” they told me as I began to unload. Don’t cry, don’t cry, and don’t cry I told myself. Yes, it had been that kind of a day. “Really?!?!” I inquired, perhaps a bit too aggressively. As they began to firmly stand their ground, a U-Haul box truck sidled up next to me. The driver, a burly guy who appeared way more biker-dude than philosopher (and by way more, I mean there was not a single thing about him that bespoke anything other than biker-with-tats-and-maybe-even-a-former-football-career).
“I’ll take it for you and bring it back here tomorrow” he said, with a far gentler tone than I expected. With tears threatening to erupt at any moment, I asked if he was serious and knew he was as he got out, opened the back of the truck and offered to help with the unload. Upon seeing this happen, the Savers guys re-thought their earlier refusal and told me that they would, indeed, take my donation. A change of heart or a macho competition, perhaps?
As a team, he and I removed bag after bag after bag of items, my frustration at the day far from exhausted. And then we started talking. But I didn’t want to talk; I didn’t want to be friendly. I was in a bitchy mood and I was going to stay in a bitchy mood, damnit. But Eric, my truck driver in shining armor, as it turns out, is quite a guy. He makes a living finding and re-selling stuff. More precisely: cool stuff. He has a store within a mall that houses antiques, collectibles and furniture services. He pulled from his pocket two Pandora bracelets which, he explained, he had picked up for a few bucks late in the day (when all the good stuff is gone) at a yard sale. (If you don’t understand how impressive that is, Google “Pandora”. And, after you pick your chin up off the floor at the prices, you will get it.) But that was just the beginning.
He spent 12 years as part of a travelling magic show. He told me about the power of guilt and the greater power, and actual ease of learning how to let it go. He referenced Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. No, he didn’t reference it; he had studied it to the point of being something of an expert. His heart, it was clear, was huge, his breadth of knowledge impressive. Yes, I am still talking about the big guy who looks like he belongs on a Harley heading for a saloon in a honky-tonk town.
I asked him if we could take a selfie as I am a writer and I love to tell the stories of random people I meet. He asked me who I write for, and I told him I have a blog (aside: my offer still stands…if anyone wants to hire me to write for them…). I knew what the next question was going to be. As he asked what my blog is about, I had to make a quick assessment and decision. “Well,” I began, “it started off as a blog about my daughter…who used to be my son…but has morphed over the years.” Without skipping a beat, he told me a story.
In his line of work, he often rents trucks. (One of these days he will go buy his own box truck, he shared.) He noticed that the guy working at the U-Haul that he uses was changing over the course of the past few months: hair was getting longer, nails were manicured, and clothing was more feminine. Eventually, he initiated a conversation around it and the two began talking regularly about the social transition that was unfolding before his eyes. After a few months, he told his new friend that he had acquired some nice dresses at yard sales and offered to bring them to her. She reluctantly agreed. When Eric brought her the dresses, she nearly wept; they were high quality, beautiful dresses which, it is worth noting, he picked up for a song. And they were now hers. Impressed with his patent acceptance, I told him how I often tell Jess that I don’t care if she is a boy, a girl or a Martian, straight, gay or somewhere in between…as long as she isn’t an asshole. He laughed and told me I am a good mom.
We stood in the hot, humid night air for a solid 45 minutes. My frustrations and anger were gone, and the layer of perspiration creating a tacky stickiness on my skin didn’t even bother me. I got his email and his blessing to share our chance encounter and headed home, amazed at the depth and thoughtfulness of a guy named Eric who was not at all what I thought he would be.
p.s. For you lovely single ladies: he is on Plenty of Fish. And I happen to have his email.