I have always depended on the kindness of strangers. And I still can.

It was a hot afternoon. I was running errands. I was thirsty. I saw the green canopy and the mermaid logo. Great! I'm in the mood for a Starbucks and I have a gift card a friend gave me. Cool. I got out of my car and grabbed my phone, which also carries my driver's license and a few plastic cards, in my left hand and my car keys in my right hand and shut the door and locked the car. I was looking forward to my cool afternoon drink. Grande, iced, decaf, soy latte...light ice. Yum. I could almost feel the coolness of it. Felt my taste buds being teased.

Then I started to fall. My right flip-flopped foot did not clear the curb and I fell down, hard, on my knee. My phone flew out of my left hand at the speed of light. My keys flew out of my right hand. Slowly. Very. Very. Slowly. I watched them glide over the center divider that I tripped over, watched them slide across the concrete, fall over the other side of the curb, and right through the grate on the storm drain. I heard the 'Kaplunk'.

A couple witnessed this and stopped by to see if I was all right. I was. But the demise of my keys had not registered in my brain yet and I asked, "Where are my keys?"

Much to my chagrin (I love this word and don't have a chance to use it too often), the young woman responded, "I watched them fall down the drain."

Polish girl keychainWell, sure enough, after I got up, I looked down into the black hole and there were my keys. How do I know this? I have a small Polish girl token that was gifted me on a visit to Chicago. Her face was in the gutter, but you could clearly see her backside. The couple had to leave and go back to work and my task was to find a way to get those keys.

I went into Starbucks and told them of my situation. I asked if they had a wire hanger. I knew if I could get one of those and create a hook at one end, I could fish them out.The response from behind the counter was "Let me get my manager." Really? You need to ask your manager if you have a wire hanger? Well, about 5 minutes later the manager came out and I explained my dilemma. She walked out with me to the drain, looked down and said, "Yes, I can see them." No wire hanger.

I then called AAA to see if they could come help me. I told them my story. The representative's response. "In all the years I've worked here, I've never heard that story."  Here's the thing about AAA. They could come unlock the doors, but, of course, they could not start the car. I could not start the car without the key, which was in the drain, and they could not help get my keys out of the drain because it had nothing to do with my car, which is what AAA takes care of.

Talk about stereotype. Don't judge me. I figured that if a man would come out to open my car door, he could, of course, figure out a way to help me get my keys out of the drain. I've already slapped myself on this thought!

I told the representative there were a few stores close by I could check out the hanger/wire situation. I checked three clothes stores and they all have wire hangers. There was a dollar store that I looked into and found some wire that I bought figuring out I could create a hook and hook my Polish girl token by her neck.

Well, I sat on the curb, created my wire with the hook on the end, and tried to hook that token. The wire was too light and I couldn't quite get her hooked.

A young man pulled into a parking spot directly behind where I was sitting and I asked him if he had a wire hanger. No luck, but he did have a gadget with a small hook that we attached to my wire that weighed our fishin' pole down and he snagged it.


The key still opened my car and it started right up.

I offered to buy this young man coffee or lunch to pay him back for his help and he said "No." I grabbed a $20 bill from my wallet and stretched out my hand to him and said, "Please take this. It's the least I can do."

"No, really. It's o.k."

"Please take this."

He looked me straight in the eye and said, "I can't take your money. I'm happy I could help you."

I knew he genuinely was.

Lessons I learned through this experience:
  1. I can still depend on the kindness of strangers.
  2. I learned that some people expect nothing in exchange for doing what is right and I cannot force what I think is fair to give in return upon them.
  3. Wire hangers do not exist in clothing stores any longer. Or obviously, not in Starbucks either.
  4. My mother used to tell us "If you sit in the gutter, you get dirty." I always thought she meant this figuratively, but it's also true literally.


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