Every now and then, I have eerie encounters that I consider “Stephen King Moments”, as though I might have stepped through some portal into the landscape of one of his novels.
About a year after my wife and I married, we drove from Fort Payne to Rising Fawn to get gasoline for our Cordoba. Our infant son was in his carseat with my twin sisters seated in the back. The car’s tank held twenty gallons but the gas gauge wasn’t always accurate. That day was a day when the gauge was way off.
Less than a mile from the exit, the engine sputtered. I knew the tank was empty and coasted as far as possible in the emergency lane. Luckily, the fall day held a moderate temperature, so I got out of the car and started jogging since the distance wasn’t far.
Crossing the hill, I looked back a final time before the car would slip from my view. I hated leaving them, but we couldn’t lug our son along the Interstate. Several cars passed, and a few minutes later, a semi slowed and sounded his horn. He pulled to the edge of the road. I was thankful to get a ride so I hurried my pace. Then, I nearly stopped walking. A moment of trepidation washed over me as the passenger side door of the truck was flung open. I don’t know why that unnerved me, but all I could think about were those terrorizing movies where the hitchhiker gets into the wrong vehicle. The open door seemed intimidating. I suppose that’s because a writer’s mind tries to view situations from every angle. I just happened to picture the worst case scenario first.
A little apprehensive, I walked to the passenger side of the door and looked up. The man was probably in his twenties, smiled, and asked if I had run out of gas or had engine trouble. I told him the tank was empty, climbed into the truck, and closed the door.
He laughed and said, “At least you’re not far from the station.”
The trucker took the exit and needed fuel at the station, too. I thanked him and went inside to get a gas can and buy a gallon of gas. With the metal can filled with gasoline in tow, I hurried back to the Interstate.
I barely walked a quarter mile before a guy in a BMW pulled to the side of the road and asked if the car on other side was mine. When I told him it was, he told me to get in. He drove his fancy vehicle across the median to where our car was parked.
“I hate that you have to turn back around,” I said.
He smiled. “I was headed north when I saw you walking and turned around to give you a lift to your car. I’m headed in the right direction.”
I thanked him and he was gone.
Kindness from strangers seems rarer these days. I’ve had other times where I’ve walked miles wearing dress clothes and no one bothered stopping. That was a blessed day, making the ordeal take far less time than it would’ve, had no one stopped. And thankfully, neither driver had escaped from one of Stephen King’s novels.