No sooner than I had declared what I thought was my one criminal act than a friend of mine reminded me of another youthful indiscretion. Again, this is not at the same level as Martin, the protagonist from SOMETHING MISSING, but it’s a decent story that I thought I would share.
Hopefully this is the last story of criminal mischief that a friend will recall.
When I was nineteen years old, I was living on my own. My mother was impoverished and I hadn’t spoken to my father in a very long time, so I was truly alone, taking care of myself.
Working without a net, so to speak.
One day in June of 1990, I went up to Laconia, New Hampshire to spend the weekend with a girl. As I was driving home on Sunday, near the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border, a tire on my 1978 Chevy Malibu blew out. Not only did the tire go flat, but it came apart, throwing rubber all over the road. I was in the middle of no-man’s land, miles between exits, and the tire needed to be completely replaced.
To make a long story short, I eventually used the last of my cash to purchase a new tire, rolling it miles and miles down the highway and putting it on the car myself. Quite an ordeal and a story in itself, but not for today.
As I climbed back in my car to complete my trip, I looked at the gas gauge and realized that it was almost empty and I was still about three hours from home.
This was in the days before cell phones, and even if I had one, there was no one who I could have called for help. I literally had one friend who would have been capable of helping me, and but on this particular weekend, he was away as well. I was more than 100 miles from home and on my own. I needed to find a way to fill my gas tank.
I took the next exit off the highway, drove to the nearest gas station, and offered the attendant collateral for gas: my luggage, my watch, and my ID. I’d pay him double when I returned with the money.
At this point I didn’t even have enough fuel to make it to the next gas station, and as I sat in my car, considering my options, my eyes caught a hold of my McDonald’s briefcase. I was managing a McDonald’s in Milford, Massachusetts at the time and had left for New Hampshire from work the previous Friday. My briefcase and uniform were still sitting in the back seat.
Donning the uniform and grabbing the briefcase, I walked from the gas station into the nearest neighborhood (quite a hike) and began going door-to-door, claiming to be collecting money for McDonald’s Children’s Charities.
At the first house, a lady gave me three dollars. At the second house an older gentleman gave me a twenty dollar bill and I was set. I couldn’t believe it. Two houses and more than twenty dollars. Gas was about a dollar a gallon back then, so I had more than I needed to get home.
As I hiked back to the station, I promised myself to replace the money that I had just acquired on behalf of the charity in spades.
So I frequently drop a dollar into those collection containers whenever I am visiting a McDonald’s, which is almost every morning before work (I’m quite fond of the Egg McMuffin). Not counting the loose change that I frequently toss in, my grand total of single dollar donations is $631 since the day I went door-to-door for gas money.
It doesn't make what I did right, but I like to think that it at least makes me even.