Saturday, June 18, 2005


The car I posted for sale in May is all but officially sold. I have a buyer who offered me $600 -- only $200 off my asking price, and $100 more than my bottom dollar -- and asked that I let him pay it over the next three or four weeks. He even suggested I keep the car until he has paid me the full balance. I agreed and took the For Sale sign out of the car and moved it to the back of my driveway.

Two days later there comes a knock at the door. It was Eric, the guy that's buying my car, a full day before I expected him to bring me the first $100 payment. "I brought you a hundred dollars," he said, holding out what looked like a wad of twenties and tens.

I took the money and put it in my pocket without counting it while Eric continued. "I left for work today and didn't make it there. The brakes in my car went out completely." I could sense that he was building up to something, and thought I could guess what that thing was. "I hate to ask you this," he continued, "and I'll understand if you don't want to do it, but I was wondering if you could maybe put a
lien on the car or something and let us take it now so I can get to work until I get my brakes fixed."

"Well, my father-in-law just sold his boat recently to a friend of his, and he had to fight just to get all of his money for it, and I'd hate for that to happen, not that I think you wouldn't pay me," I explained. "And the earliest I'll be off to go put a lien on it would be Wednesday. There's no license on it, so you'd have to put the license from your car on it, and if you got caught we could both be in trouble for that. I think I'd rather just wait until you have all the money and let you pay it all to me at once than do that." He seemed a little disappointed -- I guess he thought I'd agree -- and maybe a little worried about his lack of transportation. I took the wad of money that he had handed me out of my pocket and said, "Why don't you take this back and get your brakes fixed, then you can bring me some money when you know you'll be able to get to work and you can afford it."

"She'd just make me bring it right back to you," he said, referring to his girlfriend, for whom he was buying the car. "She kind of has her heart set on that car, and she doesn't want you to sell it to someone else," he explained.

"I'll tell you what," I said. "When do you get paid next?"

"Next Friday," he said.

"Okay. Why don't you take this money and go get your brakes fixed. If you have any left when you're done, you can bring me some if you want. Otherwise, just bring me a hundred bucks or so next Friday, and I won't sell the car before then. If I don't hear from you by a week from Monday, then I'll move it back to the street and put the For Sale sign back in it."

"Okay," he said, and took the money.

He headed back to his car, and I headed inside to eat the pizza that had just been delivered.

A short while later, my Wife and I were in our son's room, playing with his Baby Einstein flash cards with him, when I went into the living room for something. I noticed a strange car pull into the driveway and looked out the window. It was Eric again.

I went outside to see what he needed, and he greeted me with, "When you gave that money back to me earlier, did you have any extra money in your pocket?"

I thought he was implying that I didn't give him all his money back. "No," I answered as I double-checked my pockets.

He continued, "Because there was an extra twenty dollar bill when we got to
AutoZone to buy the brakes for my car."

It was then that I remembered: the change from the pizza -- the change for a fifty that I almost couldn't get -- was in the same pocket I had put Eric's $100 in. I must have handed him the twenty with the wad of cash he had given me.

I explained the situation to him, and he happily returned my twenty dollar bill. I assured them both that I wouldn't sell the car out from under them -- and felt much better about being so helpful to them than before -- and we all went our separate ways.

Sometimes it's the people you least expect it from that surprise you the most. Here's someone I don't even know, who has told me how he's struggling to pay the rent and put brakes on his car and afford to buy another car all at the same time, and he could have kept my twenty dollars. I would certainly have missed it when I stopped for gas on my way to work the next morning, but I would probably have never guessed what happened to it. Instead, this struggling man did the honorable thing and returned my money to me. It kind of restores my faith in my fellow man.


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