En route, SFO to PDX. Day 24 of My Month of Hundreds.

The weather was terrible driving to the airport from the coast this morning. Torrential rain kept up a steady beat on the roof and the water ran in rushing rivulets along the side of the road. Every so often Neysa would reach over to turn on the defroster, which helped a bit with the poor visibility. By the time we arrived and got out of the car my legs were knotted up with tension. It wasn’t too surprising that our flights were delayed, and the airport was a madhouse.  Louise and I said our goodbyes to Neysa, who was headed home to Denver.

Our flight was delayed for an hour, then two. People were lining the walkways and curled up in every corner, some with sleep masks over their eyes. Sandwich wrappers, newspaper and old coffee cups littered the floor. A palpable hum of discontent was in the air.

I took advantage of the free WiFi and read some of the comments on the blog and the Oregon Live website. Wow. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner in telling my story and was thrilled with the response to Nikole Hannah-Jones’ beautiful article. Thank you all for reading with such open hearts.

Coffee. I needed coffee. I also had a C-note in my pocket that needed to be set free. I had planned to give it away once we returned to Portland, but as it got later I changed my mind. There were so many disgruntled and frustrated people around; I would pick one and maybe make their day a little bit better.

There was an espresso stand a nice walk from our gate so I took off in that direction. I ordered a small vanilla latte and told the barista that I just wanted one pump of vanilla. He said the single pump would be on the house. This was thrilling but in the end it seemed like he charged me for it after all. I chuckled inside, thinking of all the times I have embarrassed my kids by arguing with a cashier over something just like this. They would have been proud; I didn’t say a word and I left a fat tip in the jar.

The coffee was really hot and I held it gingerly as I headed back to the gate where Louise was waiting. On the way, I passed one of those cell phone rapid charger machines. I’ve always wondered if those actually work or if they blow up your phone or what.

A burly guy in work clothes was just unplugging his phone from the machine. As he settled back into his seat, he was regarding his phone with a disgusted look on his face. I stepped over to him. “Do those things actually work?” I asked. “Not worth a damn!” he griped. “Look; I’ve got nuthin’!” He showed me the empty battery signal on his phone. “Damn it! Don’t waste your money!”

We both looked accusingly at the machine. He spotted, in tiny print, the 800 number for customer service. “I’m gonna call right now and kick some ass!”

“Oh, look,” I pointed out. “It says here that the results will depend on your battery’s quality and capacity. You know they’re going to tell you that your battery quality is inferior.” There was something slightly lewd about the way this came out but he pretended not to notice (or maybe I imagined it). He snorted and said, “It sounds like you own this machine!”

I said, yeah, I own all of them and we both laughed. He had a rough openness that I found pretty irresistible. I started thinking about what it would be like to slip him the C-note.

We kept up an easy chatter and he said he was going to a Teamsters’ convention in Phoenix. He’s a welder for the railroad. “Ask me how long I’ve been doing that,” he said, with a twinkle in his eye. I walked right into it and asked “How long?”

“All the livelong day!” He laughed. “I just love saying that!”

Then he asked me, “You know when you hear the clickety clack of the train?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I love that sound.”

“No! It’s not supposed to sound like that! I fix that!” He explained how a five degree temperature variation can cause a 3/8 inch something something and lead to a derailment.

“Oh, you have a heavy load on your shoulders,” I observed.

“Nah,” he admitted. “It’s really not as hard as it sounds.” I agreed that the same could be said about a lot of  jobs and told him I’m a physician.

Eventually I thanked him for his time and said I’d enjoyed talking with him. Then I told him about my project honoring my mom and he offered his condolences. He asked me lots and lots of questions and finally I just stuck the bill into his shirt pocket.

“You’re freaking me out! No way!” He offered to buy me a cup of coffee. I held up my coffee cup and said thanks anyway. Then he said, “I can’t take your money without even knowing your name.” We shook hands and introduced ourselves.

His name was Duane. He was an immensely curious and intelligent guy. I have no idea what he is going to do with the $100. It was almost beside the point today.

I’m home now and as I write this I can hear a train whistle in the distance. I’m too far away to tell if the tracks are going clickety clack, but not if Duane has anything to do with it.

Duane’s low battery

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17 Responses to All the Livelong Day

  1. Kay Dennison says:

    I am loving your way of honoring your mom! I think if I ever get rich (right), I’d do something similar. It reminds me of the old series, The Millionaire, in a way.

    And this one especially struck me because my late daddy was a railroader.

    Thank you!!! Your mom must have been a very special lady because you are a very special lady.

  2. Pru McDonald says:

    Dear Jill,
    I read the article in this morning’s Sunday O, and immediately felt
    compelled to become a participant in your blogging. I absolutely
    LOVED your story, felt a deep connection, enjoy being sometimes spontaneous. Doing so at my age, 79, makes life more interesting! Your entry tonight was truly charming. Enjoyed it tremendously, learning more about you, about Duane, and was so glad that you
    heeded my psychic encouragement to give him the c-note! You done good! Peace! Pru

  3. April Rautio says:

    I love reading your entries after seeing The Oregonian piece. Random acts of kindness can come in many forms and don’t always have to be monetary. In dreary Portland I’ve thought about handing out yellow balloons or flowers – or something to brighten up people’s days and let them know there’s hope out there. It’s inspiring to read about the positive effects of your kindness and interactions with strangers. I’ll look forward to reading more!

  4. I love the way you are opening yourself up to people. I’m not a particularly timid person, but to me you’re brave to be willing to talk to people as you do, risking the potential rejection or worse. It sounds as though you are getting just what you hoped from the project so far. Wonderful!

  5. Jeff says:

    Dear Jill,

    You are my new Heroine! The world needs more of this thought-filled type of action.

    Thank you for your ‘Month of Hundreds’,
    What an inspiration!

    -Jeff

  6. Karen says:

    Hello Jill,
    I just read the Sunday article in the Oregonian. Your actions struck a chord with me because my mother is also a Holocaust survivor and unfortunately has many of the same characteristics of your mom .She also had that feeling of having to work hard for every dime and needing to save, save save. It was hard for her (and still is) hard to be generous to others, especially to herself. Even now in her late years (She just turned 87) she spends as little as possible for her own comfort. It is not a healthy way to live. I think the result of being a Holocaust survivor is to not trust others and keep to themselves just for the sense of self protection I appreciate the way you have turned the memory of her around by doing this positive action of “paying it forward. “

  7. Another very endearing story. “All the live long day.” How sweet of Duane, Mr. Train. What we could learn about others if we would only slow down and take the time.

  8. Alison Goerl says:

    Hi Jill- amazing project and blog! Thanks for sharing your story with all of us. I love it! -Alison

  9. Zoya says:

    You are a good woman Jill. Don’t worry about what comes next. Allah has guided your hand thus far. Even if you can’t continue giving money to people, share your kindness and honest warmth. I have very little means of my own but I endlessly pray to have enough so I can help others. I hope someday, your daughter would honor you as you are honoring your mother.
    May God Bless you, always.

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