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Today, I drove down to Ft. Lewis to drop Jane off at the hourly care center. I’d like to start volunteering at Grace’s school and maybe even go to the dentist in the near future, so I wanted her to get used to going. I’ll cop to being a little elated. The possibilities for those two and a half hours were endless: showering for 5+ minutes, vacuuming the car out, mopping without my mini me trailing behind . . . As soon as I left the highway for the post, I heard something under the car banging along. Sh*t.

After I dropped Jane off, I got down on my hands and knees and peered under the car. I didn’t see anything, but the car made the awful banging noise every time I went over a small bump, so I drove over to Firestone. They looked at it pretty quickly and the tech came to tell me “Your rear strut is completely broken. We’re working on a price and time estimate for repair now, have you lived somewhere with a lot of salt on the roads?” No, but I have lived somewhere with lots of salt in the air. Crap.

15 minutes later, the repair tech called me up to the counter. Before he even opened his mouth, I saw the total for the work at the bottom. Inexplicably, I started to cry. The tech looked at me funny and then averted his eyes. He started speaking very slowly and going over each line on the estimate. My face and my ears burned with embarrassment. I. do. not. cry. I’m just not that girl. And here I was, weeping in front of half of the I Corps. Stop Stop STOP I shouted to myself. But I couldn’t. Of course the car would break while Kirk was gone. Of course it would be insanely expensive to fix. Of. Course. This is the sort of thing that always happens to me. If Kirk had the car and it made that noise, the tech would have come back to tell him a leprechaun was hiding under the car with a bunch of golden coins to give him.

Out of nowhere, Private First Class Mueller reached over and patted my shoulder. “Ma’m” (crying harder at the realization I’m probably at least 10 years older than him) “Ma’m, it’s going to be ok. I know that you probably think your husbands gonna kill you, but he isn’t. He’s just gonna be glad the car didn’t break down with you and your kids in it. Really Ma’m, it’s going to be ok” Crying. Harder.

I don’t know why he did that, if it was because he was uncomfortable watching me cry, if he was raised right by his mother, if he’d want someone to do the same for his wife. But it was so genuinely kind it almost shocked me out of crying.  I don’t expect that sort of thing from people, with all the gunfights on Black Friday and people stealing from food banks and everyone generally running around with a pissed off look on their face, I have sort of forgotten there are nice people in the world.

I didn’t get to thank the young kid, because he got his keys and left. So I did the only thing I could think of, I paid for the coffee of the woman behind me in line at Starbucks (fought the urge to just go to the liquor store) whose kids were going at it UFC style and I could tell she was a moment away from crying herself. I’m generally not into all of that pay it forward, karmic goodness nonsense. Then again, I’m not usually into crying at the auto shop. But at least for today, I’m going to try to be as nice to others as that Private was to me. And I’m writing this post to put it out there in the universe that I’m grateful for his kind words.

Now I’m off to look for a leprechaun to pay for those repairs . . .