One night recently, while spending the evening with a friend at the Elm Road Panera, we blasted through some dinner, then some dessert and along the way, at least three cups of hazelnut coffee - my favorite. As usual, we closed the place down, heading to our cars about 9:20 p.m. - they close at 9. Who knew that the real adventure was about to begin!
As we came out the door, we heard the Panera man (he's the guy who drives the double tractor trailer filled with Panera goodies for all the other Panera stores) call out across the parking lot, ''Is this car one of yours?''
Pointing toward my car, he said, ''Looks like you have a flat tire.''
Now what, I wondered, after a particularly nutty day behind me already?
Mr. Panera examined the tire and decided that I had enough air to get to the Sheetz down the street. He proceeded to tell me about their air machine, how to operate it, what the blinking lights would mean.
Mr. Panera and my friend decided she should follow me there. He also decided that if I didn't make any sharp turns, I should get there all right.
My life had clearly been commandeered by this helpful stranger. I only had to nod my head, signaling I understood what he said.
We got in our vehicles and, without any sharp turns, slowly drove to Sheetz where I turned in and began driving around the lot in search of the air pump. A young couple noticed my tire and came running to tell me I had a flat. The man could see that I had no idea where the air pump was so he pointed the way.
I started to get out to use the air pump, but he insisted on doing it for me. His wife said I should let him because he likes to do good deeds. I was thankful; I could use a good deed about then.
The tire was resistant but the young man persisted, and the tire filled. In the process it was noted that the tire had a screw lodged in it. His wife proceeded to instruct me on how to find the problem using soapy water. I was glad for the help of this very pleasant young couple. With air in the tire, we all said our goodbyes and thank-yous and left Sheetz.
It was now 10:30 and my mind was really wound up. Just because there is air in that tire now doesn't mean there will be in the morning. How would I get to work if the tire went flat again? Should I call AAA now to come change it when I got home or wait till morning? Maybe I should get two new tires on my way to work. After all, we were planning to get them anyway.
On and on my mind whirled.
By the time I got home, I was totally and completely wide awake, so I played with the dog, watched TV then tried to close my eyes to finally get some sleep. It wasn't working - I was still awake at 2 a.m.
Finally, instead of thinking about the annoying things of this day, I began to focus my thoughts on the kindness of the Panera man, concerned that this total stranger needed direction for how to deal with a flat tire. Those thoughts led me on to the nice young couple who also came to my aid. I reflected on the kindness of total strangers given freely. Good Samaritans, each one of them and a blessing in disguise.
And as I sank into the warmth of their kindness, I relaxed and sleep was mine.
Jagunic is a Cortland resident. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org