A Walmart oil change, an elderly woman and an episode of Dragnet

I drove through a poor part of town today. The kind with boarded up windows every other house. I thought that while this area was clearly economically depressed, kids still got up and went to middle school, single mothers juggling multiple jobs caught early morning buses to work and auto mechanics covered in oil and grease twisted wrenches. What I mean to say is that while this town looked like it was slowly dying; people went right on living.

Sometimes I fail to think about the people in these ramshackle towns. That they are working long hours and still might not have enough to feed their kids.

Anyway, I was getting my oil changed in this not-so-nice section of town at a Wal-Mart, and I met an elderly woman in the waiting room. I am not sure how old she was because she looked old enough to be my grandmother, but talked as fast as a teenager (with a certain amount of urban swagger) and seemed in very good health. She was very thin and like my 9th grade gym teacher could probably beat a few 20 year olds in a mile long foot race.

We sat and watched old episodes of Dragnet on a rear projection television. We watched as EMTs rushed a young boy to the hospital after a baseball injury and my new friend said of the episode, “If that little boy dies, I’m outta here. Don’t even care none about my car.” I laughed, “Yeah me too.”

She talked about all kinds of stuff. About how she could probably fix her car for cheaper than what Wal-Mart was going to charge. About how she should have gotten a Toyota Camry because they “last forever” unlike her Ford SUV. She talked about how she works 7 days a week and has for 4 years.

She swore a lot. I mean more than I’m used to and I played on public high school hockey teams. But she was kind. She laughed real big and smoky when she told stories or when we went back and forth.

 I think when someone extends you kindness; your job is to extend it right back.

The mechanic tossed me the keys to my car and I said goodbye to my new friend. I then drove through that same ramshackle town glad for my decision to take the trip. Then a realization came over me, “They never did say what happened to the little boy with the baseball injury … Bastards.”

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