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.