It was supposed to be a quick lunchtime trip to Menards. I left the Star Tribune at 12:30 for Golden Valley, fully expecting to be back in downtown Minneapolis in an hour.
Things were proceeding according to plan until I spotted the patio chairs on my way to check out— $10 each after the rebate.
"Save big money at...," well, you know the jingle. Great deal, I thought, and it shouldn’t be a problem getting them into the old sedan, even though they were clearly too big for the trunk.
First I had to move the car because I’d been parked in on both sides. Then I struggled to get one chair in through the passenger door and, after moving the front seats forward as far as they could go and lowering the one working back window, I squeezed in two more. The fourth, it quickly became apparent, wasn’t going in the car in one piece. And it was already 1:30.
This was the point at which a more mature man would have given up, taken the chair into the store and come back later to pick it up. Instead, I went back into the store and bought a $2.99 pliers, thinking I’d quickly disassemble No. 4.
I was sweating, swearing and on one knee in the parking lot when I heard a voice. "That looks like too much work," the SUV driver said.
I told him I was sure my new pliers eventually would do the trick, but he must have smelled failure. In a minute we were headed east on I-394, the SUV in my rear-view mirror. I still had no idea who he was.
I introduced myself and parted company with Jerry in the Star Tribune parking lot, but not before he offered to drive all four chairs to my house in St. Paul. I declined, thanked him, and sheepishly carried No. 4 across the parking lot and into the building.
I lost 30 minutes of the work day and a little pride — and I’ll probably forget to send in the damn rebate paperwork — but I got a bargain on an affirming random act of kindness from Jerry in the SUV.
Scott Gillespie is the Star Tribune's editorial page editor.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.