What is it about Truck stops? They seem to be a haven for "Bill's people," the wacky people who find me wherever I go and engage me in... well, you never can tell.
I was at a truck stop just north of Ocala, Florida the other day, and as I was putting gas into a Ford Fusion, a redneck gentleman approached me. "Hello, sir," he said to me very politely. He looked like a Florida cracker, but he spoke like a real proper gent. "I know you are going to hate me for this, but I have to ask you a question."
I anticipated his request for a handout. "What do you need?" I asked.
"Please don't think too badly of me, but my truck is running on fumes. I need gas to get back home to Gainesville. Home of the University of Florida. Home of the Florida Gators. Go Gators." He held up a fist to emphasize his love of the Gators, though he didn't seem too enthused. "Now I need $60 in gas to get back to Gainesville, but I just don't have it. I don't have a dime. I don't have a nickel."
I considered what he'd said. It was only 28 miles to Gainesville, and it should not take $60 of gas to get there. I mean gas prices are sky high, but come on! I shook my head and said, "Sorry, but I--"
"Now please don't judge me too harshly. I'm sure you'd like to slap my face right about now, but I'm not asking for you to give me money."
"No sir, not at all. In my truck, I have something very special. Have you ever heard of Arnold Palmer? He was a golf player."
"Yes, I know who Arnold Palmer is."
"You may have heard that they named a drink after him. A very refreshing drink called an Arnold Palmer. One part lemonade, one part iced tea. Truly delicious."
"Yes, I've had an Arnold Palmer."
"Oh, you've had one? Well then, you know."
"Yes, I know."
"I'm sure you'd like to kick me in the balls right about now, but the fact is I have a putter in my car that used to belong to Arnold Palmer."
"Sir, this is not something that I would kid around about. And I'm willing to sell it to you for only $40. Now that won't be enough to buy me gas to get home to Gainesville, but I'll take what I can get."
"Sir, I'm quite sure you hate my guts by now, but how can you turn down an offer like this? I'm selling it to you for $40, but you can go anywhere and sell it for $400. Maybe even $500."
"Then why don't you sell it for that much?"
"Alas, I have no gas to get to one of the fine establishments that would offer me such a sum. Sir, do you realize who Arnold Palmer is?"
"Yes, I'm well aware."
"Refreshing drink named after him?"
"OK, yes, I know who he is, I know the drink, but I don't want the putter."
"Is it something I said? Was it my sales technique?"
"I don't need it, and I don't have the money to buy it."
He looked down at his feet, as if he couldn't bare to make eye contact with me. "I'm sure you would love to knock my teeth out right now, but I have to say that I think you are making a huge mistake. Arnold Palmer is a legend."
I finished pumping my gas and put the nozzle back on the hook. "Yep, and I'm sure that someone will want to buy it. You do have a note of certification, don't you?"
He glared at me. "How dare you." And he walked away.
I went into the Truck stop to use the restroom and get a cup of coffee. I was a little short on cash, but now I had a few loose singles and change in my pocket. When I went back out to my car, I could see the guy was trying his scam out on another customer. Only this new victim was not nearly as patient as me. He told the guy where to go, got in his car, and sped away.
I came up behind the guy, and pulled the money out of my pocket. "Hey there."
He turned, and looked at me with total disdain. "Oh, you again."
"Yep, me again. Here you go." I handed him 3 dollars and change. He took it and stared at it for a long time.
"I hope you don't expect me to sell you Arnold Palmer's favorite putter for this. That is totally ridiculous, you've got to be kidding me."
"No, I don't want the putter. I just thought this might help you out."
He snorted. "Yeah, right. I'll take your money, but I want to be on record as saying the amount you gave me is an insult. You need to look in your heart and try to find a little more kindness for your fellow man." He walked away from me shaking his head.
I try to help others. But sometimes I feel like I'm spinning my wheels.