Diet Coke and a smile

When my parental units moved out to California a few years ago, one of the first things my mom told me was that, apparently, men did not help women who were stranded on the side of the road with flat tires, engine trouble, etc. Now, she had not witnessed this – this informational nugget was gifted to her by several co-workers and friends. But she was a bit in disbelief.

My mom is that rare woman who can be stuck with a flat tire on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, with no cell signal, and within five minutes, some good ole boy in a pick-up truck will have pulled alongside her and will be switching out that flat in no time at all. I’ve never seen it fail.
So, of course, when she had a flat tire a few months back on the sunny streets of Cali, she had not one, but two men come to her rescue. When she informed the naysayers of this, they were all shocked – this had never occurred before. Maybe the men were transplant-Texans.

I was out there over Easter weekend, and I borrowed mom’s second car (her first is a convertible, which messes up my hair) while doing a little on-my-own sightseeing (that’s the best kind, just so you know). Well, I noticed that it was a little low on gas, and I’m a good daughter, so I found a gas station and filled the tank. While the gas was pumping, a cop pulled into the lot and parked and made his way inside. Now, I am not usually the “nervous nellie” type, but the car still had the Texas registration sticker, which was expired on it, and I don’t know what the rules in California are on car registration, inspection, etc. So most smart people would have finished their gas, and left, right?

But I really wanted a soda. I mean, really badly wanted a soda.

So I went inside. This was one of those kind of “old-timey” gas stations, where they still have a mechanic’s garage attached, and the inside is very tiny. I’m used to the mega-market stations we have here in Austin. You could practically grocery shop in those ala Reality Bites. Of course, once inside, I made an ass out of myself by having to actually ask if they sold sodas there, because I couldn’t see where they were. And of course! The cop was standing in front of the particular cooler in which the sodas were stored, so I had to walk up to him, say excuse me, and again, *of course*, he is ridiculously good-looking. So he smiles at me, I smile at him, he walks to the register, I grab my Diet Coke. And he’s just standing there – not paying, just hanging out. Okay. So I also grab a Mounds, because when in doubt, get chocolate. As I walked up to the register, he motioned for me to go ahead of him. I smiled, thanked him and laid my purchases on the counter. As I was reaching for my wallet, he says, “Oh no, I’ve got this.”

Now, maybe this happens every day to you, and if so, rock on with your bad self. But I rarely have someone just offer to pay for me, especially at a gas station, especially when we haven’t been talking and flirting beforehand. So I smiled and thanked him again – “That’s awfully nice of you” – and made my way out to the car.

Because it’s not about giving the guy my number (which would have been weird since we live in different states), and it’s not about flirting and feeling like I owe him now – it’s about someone doing something nice and out of their way, and you being gracious enough to say “thank you.” It’s a simple act of giving and receiving, and it doesn’t have to be tied up in a myriad of hoops and obligations.

And maybe it’s not that California guys aren’t helpful to strangers. Maybe they just respond better to Texas gals!

– Finch