Welcome to Paul Curran’s weekly Sunday guest column. Today he takes us on a trip to a truck stop and an encounter with a special hitch-hiker with a bike in tow. Take it away, superb storyteller Paul.
Welcome to the weekly coffee and tea garden. My name is Paul, I’ll be your barista today and I’m happy to be here at Mark Bialczak’s Little Bitty in Syracuse, New York. Please come in and go through to the living room. Mark, his wife Karen and their pooch Ellie B, have prepared a nice, air-conditioned, comfy place for us so I can tend to your needs for a cuppa, and sweets. The weather this morning is sunny and hot with a high just over 85 F. As usual, I’d be pleased to bring a pot of whatever beverage you prefer – we have a wide range of teas and coffees to satisfy our worldwide readership and adult beverages for those who wish something stronger. We can relax with a cuppa in the air conditioning while we discuss the affairs of the week both personal and/or worldwide. Ellie likes to be patted, so please indulge her when she greets you. How has your week been? Have a piece of cake (or any of the sweets on the next table) – electronic sweets are all calorie free!
This morning I would like to tell you a story that left me wondering – even today and it happened some years ago when was hauling fuel.
The day was hot and I was tired. Having driven all night I was headed for North Bay with 15,000 gallons of gas in a B-train (two trailers) tanker. I still had 4 hours to go when I decided to stop for an Italian sub. Swinging off the highway at the first Arnprior exit, I made my way onto a road between two fields that reconnected with the main street right next to a gas station we served. I could park across the street from the station and I would be looking at a food strip with a Subway, a McDonald’s, a Tim Horton’s, a few convenience stores and some other shops. It was a perfect spot to stop as the truck was safe and out-of-the-way, there were many shops to choose from and the main street lead right back to the highway with no traffic lights or intersections. Parking spots like these were hard to find with an 80-foot, 140,000-pound truck with two trailers carried on 30 wheels.
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Parking, I hopped out and got my sub to go and returned to the truck. As I started back I realized there was a woman standing next to the tractor. She looked worn and tired too and was dressed in a T-shirt with shorts and she had a light windbreaker tied around her waist with sneakers on her feet. At about 25 years old she looked like she hadn’t slept for many days. As I approached I realized she looked sad and dejected.
‘Hi. Can I help you?”
“Hi, I’m Janice. Can I get a ride to Petawawa with you?”
I didn’t normally pick up hitch-hikers but she looked so sad, I gave it a hard thought. Petawawa was about 75 miles further west, and I would drive right by it. She looked harmless and in need so I agreed.
“I can take you as far as the truck stop in Pembroke but I’m going to North Bay and I can’t get off the bypass and go into Petawawa with the truck. You should be able to easily get a ride the 10 miles from the Pembroke truck stop to Petawawa.”
Parked in the Brush
Web Site: https://barndoorcycling.wordpress.com/
“Thanks very much, just let me let me get my bike.”
“You have a bike?”
“Yes, it’ll fit into your truck – I’ve had in trucks like this one before.”
I couldn’t see how but, hey if she wanted to try, more power to her.
“OK, where is it?”
She gestured into the field and I followed her through the brush. Sure enough there was a racing bike chained to the largest tree in the field. She explained:
“I’ve had so many bikes stolen even when they were chained. The thieves just cut the chain and take it. So, now I park it where it is out of sight.”
And it sure was – in the middle of the bush.
Sure Enough – Janice was Right: a Door
Web Site: http://www.mylittlesalesman.com/2015-peterbilt-579-sleeper-door-1224966
She wheeled the bike back to the truck and went around to the driver’s side of the bunk.
“On Peterbilts [which this was] this whole end opens like a door.”
I hadn’t driven this truck often and hadn’t noticed. I stepped inside and found the latch and sure enough, the whole wall opened like a door. This exposed both the sleeping area and the storage area under it.
“I’ll jump inside and you pass the bike up – keep it at a 45-degree angle. You won’t steal it while I’m inside, will you?”
She seemed seriously concerned about this. I laughed and pointed out that it was my truck, and she nodded.
And so we did this and sure enough, the bike slid right into the sleeper compartment like it was built for it. I closed the bunk door and hopped into the driver’s seat. Janice had already settled into the passenger’s seat. I brought my log book up to date and we pulled out onto the road.
It was odd, even when looking forward I could still “feel” Janice’s presence curled upon the corner of the passenger’s seat. She was somehow special in a way that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. She explained that her father had passed away in Petawawa and she was going to his funeral. Apparently she had been in Montreal (about 250 miles away) when her mother had contacted her. She had no money, just her bicycle, so she chose to cycle the 250 miles. I expressed surprise but she told me she regularly cycled that far or further and from her appearance and the bike, I suspected she may be telling the truth. She said she only hitched a ride because she was so tired and hungry and had to keep going.
I remembered the submarine sandwich I had set aside when I picked her up and I reached into the pouch where I had put it and offered it to her. She was flabbergasted as if no one had ever given her anything before.
“Won’t you get hungry?”
“I have lots of energy stored.”
And I patted my belly.
”You are obviously hungry so eat up.”
With a nod she opened the sub and tore into it such that I wondered when she had eaten last.
When she had done, she thanked me again and then the unconventional conversation started.
‘You’re a good man Paul.”
“I’m no different from many men, Janice. I see someone hungry I give them food – that doesn’t seem so special to me.”
“Not in my experience. Very few will feed a hungry person.”
“Maybe you’re just hanging out with the wrong crowd – virtually all the people I know will feed a hungry person.”
“I can see things that others can’t, and I know you are a good man because even right now I can see angels flying around you.”
“I have a great deal of faith in a higher power Janice, but I don’t know about angels. I can’t see where I am any different from many others. I leave the angels and other Godly effects to others more deserving.”
I need Battle Angels – if I get to Choose
Web Site: http://aies-mara.obsidianportal.com/wikis/the-erinys
“Really, there are angels with you and they go wherever you go. I could see them from the moment I saw you.”
I have to admit that her words made me feel happy, even though I knew that the probability she actually saw angels was low. She could have just been being kind to me for giving her a lift or perhaps she wanted to sway me to take her right into Petawawa – I didn’t know.
As if trying to convince me that she really saw angels Janice continued:
“I can speak in tongues as well.”
“Really? Can I hear some?”
At this point Janice began smoothly speaking words that had no meaning to me. I listened carefully and although I am familiar with a number of languages (obviously English is my mother tongue, but I also took courses in French, Russian and Latin over the years. Using these four languages, I can recognize the odd word in most languages.) I could hear no words that I recognized in any form. Her speech seemed to have a cadence that suggested sentences with punctuation (pauses and emphases) and grammatical structure. At no time in the few minutes did she pause to grope for words nor did I hear her repeat any words. If this was not a language, it was a demonstration that she had spent a lot of time making it sound like a language. I could not imagine a set of circumstances under which she would be motivated to do that.
Finished, she looked at me questioningly. I had to admit that it sounded like a language and she assured me it was. At that point we were making the turn into the truck stop in Pembroke, so I didn’t have time to inquire further. As we parked Janice told me that she used to be am inspector for the DMV. I laughed and asked her how my driving was. She replied that it was excellent. I spent a fair bit of time testing and training drivers so I was constantly trying to improve my driving. I was pretty comfortable that I could pass a test.
Pembroke Truck Stop
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I helped her unload her bike while she asked yet again if I was going to steal it while she was handing it down. I assured her that her bike was safe with me for the length of time it took her to get out of the truck. At that we exchanged a hug and said our good-byes. I still like to think about angels flying around. It makes me happy, even if I have to suspend disbelief to do it.
That’s about all we have room for this week folks, so it’s time to settle in with another cuppa and pat Ellie B. Sweets anyone? Please join me in thanking Mark, Karen and Ellie B for their invitation to tea. We are all honored that you dropped by today to visit. I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself and the conversation and please look around at Mark’s other posts while you’re here. Have a great week.
Of Course I Bought Her a Coffee to Go
Web Site: https://www.123rf.com/photo_10484651_female-cyclist-in-trendy-attire-with-a-cup-of-coffee-riding-on-city-street.html