Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

In Stony Places

I have seen flowers come in stony places

And kind things done by men with ugly faces
And the gold cup won by the worst horse at the races,
So I trust too.
- by John Masefield

It will be Thanksgiving on Thursday. My Spouse and I intended to drive to Maine and visit our friends to celebrate with them. It looks like snow will prevent that. At this moment the world outside our window is a gentle white blanket, albeit for us a poorly-timed one.
In the summer we drove to our friends' house for their wedding. One passes through many toll roads along the way. At a particular place, we slowed the car to a crawl and prepared to hand over some change; it happened to be the most expensive of the toll roads we would encounter on this journey.
My Spouse, with almost 2 dollars clutched in a fist, prepared to hand over the sum to the attendant. He waved his hand oddly at us. We could not interpret the signal easily, since all previous attendants have taken the cash monotonously and mechanically. Such places are the epitome of cool efficiency and warrant no idle banter or greeting. This was something new to us.
My Spouse made a second attempt.
We saw that he was waving us away, but, naturally, assumed it was a cruel trick. Once we drove away and were past the gate, we would be held accountable and accused of trying to leave without paying. So of course we were determined to clear up the matter.
"What are you saying?" my Spouse cried. "Here is the money."
The attendant said something in a muffled voice that my Spouse did not catch but which I deciphered the last word of: "...paid."
I said, "I think somebody paid for us."
My Spouse, never having heard of such mysterious creatures as those who pay your way at a toll, did not hear me.
The attendant waved us onward. "It is paid. The gentleman in front of you, he paid."
My Spouse was speechless. I, who had heard vague tell of such beings, said, quickly, "I think he means it is a gift. We can go." I said it, but did not believe it, even then.
The attendant had a strange smile as we drove on.
An individual had, for no reason we could identify, paid for us at the toll booth. I am unsure how many people behind us he also paid for. We meet meandering and indiscriminate kindness so rarely that when they greet us we narrow our eyes in suspicion and shake our heads before walking away to avoid getting into any sort of trouble.
The amount we saved was $1.75. It is truth to say that the money was well spent; were it ten times as much, it could not have bought a more pleasant feeling.
It does not look likely that we can make our journey this Thanksgiving. I still hope, though, that the roads will be friendly for travellers with ne'er an ounce of hostility to be seen.

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