Driving home it was dark, cold, and miserable. Winter was still in full force and the whole place oozed with bleakness. There was a prison across the street and a disreputable gas station along my route. These were the pretty views. The rest was worse.
I pulled in to get my $3.45 of precious gas. I wouldn’t make it home otherwise.
I hated the urban blight. Nothing is uglier than an unlit dirty snow covered city street.
Except a street with a conked out car blocking the lane.
I’d started rolling uphill toward the pumps when my car shuddered and died. Another 50′ and I’d have made it. I knew from the way the car had stopped that there wasn’t a chance in hell there was enough gas in the lines to restart and roll the last 50′. I was done.
I stepped out and pondered my options. It was an uphill slope and I had a battleship sized car. I couldn’t push it over a pencil, much less up a grade. I started rummaging through the back looking for a container. A soda bottle or something. Something just big enough to carry enough gas to restart my car. Hopefully I’d get moving again before a snowplow came along and nailed me. Luckily there wasn’t much traffic…
While I was searching for an old coke bottle, someone had roared up behind my dead beast of a car with his own equally beast like sedan. Whoever was in the sedan laid on the horn.
What’s the point of that? If you see a guy standing next to a dead car, the horn isn’t likely to solve his problems. As if to demonstrate the degree to which I wasn’t likely to ever move my car, I leaned into the door frame and tried to push. My car didn’t move an inch.
The guy in the sedan leaned out of his window and shouted. “Move that piece of shit!”
He was a clown. Red curly haired wig, face paint, the works. He was pissed.
I leaned into the car again and again it didn’t move. I hoped he’d get the point and drive around. Instead he swore.
“Goddammit!” He growled through his face paint. “Get in the freakin’ car, I’ll push you.”
Awesome! I hopped in my car, clicked it into neutral, and wham… The instant I was off the brake he walloped my bumper. Shoving one beefy old car with another beefy old car is not a delicate matter. With a crunch that would break a Subaru’s heart, he locked bumpers and roughly shoved me up the slope and all the way to the pump. I was delighted. (Don’t try that maneuver with a modern plastic safety box. An old station wagon is a tank compared to a Kia.)
He pulled up to the other side of the pump. I hopped out and started fueling.
“Gee thanks” I began.
“Bah!” Groused angry clown. He waved me away.
Even in the magic time of cheaper gas, $3.45 didn’t add up to much. I was done pumping in no time. I went into the store to pay. I was hungry but a candy bar was way out of my league. I was just happy I could restart my car. (It was cold!)
At the counter the teller rang up $3.45. I reached into my pocket for the sandwich bag with my money.
Frantically I checked my pockets. Nothing. I checked them all again. Was it in my jacket pocket? Jeans pocket? Where the heck was it?
“Jesus! Pay will ya?” Angry clown was behind me; looking homicidal. Colorful baggy pants, the special enormous shoes, bright purple over shirt. He was tall and had a foghorn voice. He didn’t have a red nose. Who hires a clown at 5:00 am?
I shrugged. My sandwich bag was gone and I was all out of options. I humbly stepped aside to let him through. I’d figure something out but at the moment I wasn’t sure what that something would be.
“What the…” He eyed me like I was something he’d scraped off his huge red clown shoes. He glared at the register. “$3.45?” He looked at me with disgust. “Really?”
Still rummaging through my pockets I had no answer. “I…” I began.
The clown slapped down a $5 on the counter. “For the loser’s gas.” He barked.
The teller rang it up. Angry clown swiped up the change. Then he slapped down a $20 to pay for his fuel. He’d pumped exactly $20. He didn’t wait for the teller to ring it up. He was a clown in a hurry. He swiveled to face me.
“Oh my gosh that’s so nice.” I stammered. My gas conundrum was solved. I hadn’t been expecting anything of the sort.
Once again he waved off my gratitude. “Loser.” He mumbled as he pushed past me and headed for the door.
Then he and his clown shoes and his big car tore off into the dark.
The teller was speechless. So was I. We were alone. Finally he spoke, “Did a big mean clown just call you a loser?”
I nodded. “Yes.”
The teller looked confused. He expected me to be angry. “You were dissed by a clown.” He prompted.
I shrugged; “Out of gas, blocking the road, can’t come up with $3.45. He’s got a point.”
The teller would have nothing of it, “Dude, he’s a clown.”
“Nope.” I disagreed “A good Samaritan. An asshole too. I guess you can be both?”
When I got home I turned my apartment inside out. I never found that plastic bag full of dimes and quarters. I have always wondered what happened to it. I never saw the clown again. If I met him now, when I’m not broke, I’d buy him a steak dinner. He’d probably call me a loser again. I wouldn’t mind. I was very desperate and appreciated the help.
In the meantime I hope he hasn’t terrified too many children.