Being down to the next-to-last day of my vacation, I thought a break from all the landscape and ceramic tile work might be in order. Randa loves steak and I’m a willing co-conspirator in that line of subversive activity, so I suggested we splurge on a meal over at Saint Joe. It must have taken at least several nanoseconds for her to agree to my idea.
Just at the eastern edge of Wathena, we saw a young man walking beside the road, carrying a jacket in his hand. He didn’t have his thumb stuck out in the air and we were already past him before I felt a slight twinge of conscience. By the time my medium rare, fire-grilled prime rib got to the table, the hiker wasn’t even a twitch on my moral compass. It’s a bit freaky how much of the world’s needs can be pushed out of sight by a decent steak.
Sometimes, though, those needs push back.
On our way home, I saw the hiker again. He was still walking toward St. Joseph. Now, we were on the opposite side of the divided highway. Pretty good excuse, I guess, but nonetheless, I took the next exit and headed back toward the city.
It took us no more than two minutes to get back to where we’d seen the young man walking. No more than two minutes. He had disappeared. “What are the odds?” I asked Randa. “That guy’s out here walking for two hours and in the two minutes it takes us to turn around, he finally gets a ride?”
I swung off on the Roseport Road exit, the last one before Highway 36 crosses the river. As we finished the half-mile turnaround and were turning back up the ramp to catch the westbound lane, Randa spotted him. “There he is,” she pointed, “What’s he doing on this side of the highway?”
After several miles of walking with the traffic flow, he’d switched over to the other side. Maybe he wanted to walk across on the north side of the bridge. Maybe that would bring him into Saint Joe closer to where he wanted to go. I didn’t know what reasons prompted his move. I did know that we were on the ramp, a hundred yards away from him and headed in the opposite direction. I suppose I could have pulled over on the shoulder, got out of the car and run up the embankment and offered him a ride. I didn’t.
I just wished I had taken the opportunity I’d had two hours earlier when it would have been a simple matter to help the guy out. And, I wished that he’d waited another minute before giving up on getting a ride. One more minute. And now, I’m wondering how many times it might have been in my own life that I would have found my deliverance if I’d just waited a little longer before giving up.