When I first met him he was on the side of the road, pushing his old Ford Ranger. There was a lady on the other side of the truck, doing her best at trying to help. I pulled over and asked the classic question.
“You need any help?”
As if he was going to say, “No thanks, we’re training for a 10k but this is a different 10k. You have to push a small truck in this race. If you helped us it would actually be hurting our training. Thanks anyway. Good day, sir.”
Instead he just told me that he ran out of gas and that he was trying to push his truck to a flat surface so that he might have a better chance of getting his truck back up and running. So I helped him push his truck a few feet off the road and into a driveway.
He told me his story about being on the verge of eviction and how tight things are and now, look at this, the truck ran out of gas. There was a gas station about a mile up the road and he had a gas can in his truck along with what seemed to be all of his earthly possessions. I volunteered to go get him some gas.
“Oh, God bless you sir. That’d be just fine. But could you please get me the 89?”
“Yeah, you know. The mid-grade.”
Mid grade! Sure, and maybe some Funyuns and lottery tickets too. Who runs out of gas on the side of the road and tells the guy helping them to get some mid-grade? Who buys mid-grade anymore? Did this 1980 something Ranger happen to have a Corvette engine in it?
I bought regular unleaded. Good old 87.
When I got back the man’s hood was up. This was bad news because an open hood means that things are quickly going beyond my grasp. I’m okay at pushing and great at driving to gas stations but when it comes to looking under hoods, this man would have been better off if one of the Jonas Brothers stopped to help.
I ignored the open hood and went directly to the gas tank, which had a lock on it. Once my new friend got it open I started pouring. After a minute or two we decided to stop and see if the truck would crank up.
And then it broke down again.
I started pouring some more and that’s when he handed me a Sprite bottle.
“Pour this in the carburetor.”
“No, it’s gas.”
Wait. Why did I just go to the gas station if this guy already had gas-filled Sprite bottles in the back of his truck? Why would one keep gas in a Sprite bottle? Where’s the carburetor?
I followed him to the front of the truck where he reached under the hood and started pulling stuff out. He handed me this big hose that was connected to something and told me to pour the Sprite bottle gas in.
Is this normal? I’ve only watched a total of maybe 30 minutes of NASCAR in my life but I’m pretty sure that most of their gas pouring occurred at the back of the car, not under the hood. Maybe I should’ve payed more attention. I knew making fun of racing would come back to bite me one day.
I figured that since it was this man’s truck after all, I’d do what he said. I poured away and hoped for the best.
He went back to try to crank it again and our Sprite trick didn’t seem to work. The old Ford Ranger still wouldn’t crank. I resumed my position beside the fuel tank, you know, where most people pour gas. I started pouring again. While I was pouring he started cranking.
And that’s when I noticed one thing this man didn’t have.
There was a little switch under the steering column and that’s what he was pushing on every time he tried to crank the truck. There were also a lot of wires.
The headlines flashed through my mind.
LOCAL PASTOR ARRESTED FOR HELPING CAR THIEF THAT RAN OUT OF GAS
IDIOT PASTOR CAUGHT UP IN ELABORATE SPRITE BOTTLE CON
That’s when I started praying.
“God, I’ve done all I can do here. Do something to make this man’s truck crank up.”
I’m sure I threw in something about the police not finding out about any of this too.
Before I could say amen, the man who lived in the house at the other end of the long driveway where we were parked drove up.
He didn’t look happy.
Please tell me this isn’t the original, rightful owner of the old Ford Ranger. When he got out of his truck, he yelled at my gas deprived friend.
“Is that your trash in my yard? Pick it up! You need some jumper cables?”
Close call. Apparently this wasn’t the original, rightful owner of the old Ford Ranger but it did appear to be someone who knew what he was doing.
That was my signal to get in my car and get back home as fast as I could.
As I was leaving I could hear a voice saying thanks and God bless and something about visiting my church sometime.
On my way home, one thought remained in my mind.
“Next time, just buy the mid-grade.”