The Widow

My line of work introduces me to all kinds of critters, big and small, every year. This time of year in particular, the beginning of Spring in Texas, means 3 specific things: a windshield covered in bugs, crickets, and black widow spiders.

Black widows are a common occurrence in Texas and, for the most part, aren’t going to mess with anyone. Unless you’re an idiot and starting screwing around with them. These spiders vary in size, usually have a red marking on their body, and fairly easy to spot. Their bite is painful, can cause some serious damage, and can be fatal in some cases. Black widows are commonly associated with death, especially metaphorically and in literature. Like I said, they won’t go after you unless you go after them first. Still, be vigilant.

So, around 2:30 in the morning, I was on a particularly large site. A truck stop to be exact. I bagged off all the dispensers, no gas for the next few hours, and the place is empty other than a few big rigs. After opening one of the dispensers, I notice a large cluster of spider webs, several egg sacks, maybe 100 dead crickets at the bottom of the containment, and a menacingly large black widow. I clear away what I need to in order to put in my test hoses and test the fuel lines without disturbing the tiny little ecosystem and carry on with my wonderful job.

The time came for me to test all the sensors on site while the other tests were running. This means opening every dispenser and reaching down into them in order to pull each and every sensor. Spiders galore, lucky me. Again, I happily perform the task at hand.

Around 3:45 in the morning I’m on my last sensor. I got down on one knee and opened the dispenser. Surprise, surprise. More black widows. As I reached in to pull out the sensor while keeping my distance from the spider, I felt a tap on my shoulder.

I meet all kinds of people on the road. Homeless, crazy, beggars, crackheads, prostitutes, religious fanatics, criminals, and my personal favorite, the people that think they know better than you about something because some relative used to work at a gas station 15 years ago. Clearly this person knows all about tank and line testing and should be consulted as an expert at all possible junctures. Most people are harmless, some are not, and all are interesting. Back to the tap…

I looked up over my shoulder to see a woman, maybe 55 years old. She was dirty, clearly tired, and definitely scared the shit out of me for half a second. I thought I was the only one roaming around that site in the wee hours of the morning. I stood up, because I’m super polite, and asked her what I could do for her. Of course, she gave me the most popular line in the book.

“Do you have any extra change I could have?”

Now, I hear that line all day, every day. I am already a cynical person and while I try to see the best in people, in the back of my head I’m thinking “Oh great, another homeless person asking for money, get a job, leave me alone, etc.” You can think I’m an asshole, but I know and you know that we all have those same thoughts every time we experience it. We all want to blow them off, judge them, let them bother someone else. Surely if you offer to buy them food they will turn it down, they only want the money. What’s the point?

As a rule, I try not to carry cash on me. I get into some pretty sketchy situations and deal with a lot of sketchy people. I can cancel a debit card, I’ll never get my cash back. Do I have any change for you? No, let me finish my job.

Before I could blow the lady off, she immediately followed her request with a short story about how her husband died recently, she lost her home, her vehicle was falling apart (which was true, I’ve seen demolition derby cars in better shape), and had nowhere to go. Blah, blah, blah. Another sob story. Take it somewhere else.

I listened to her speak, nodded along, told her how sorry I was (still super polite), and let her finish. As it turned out, I happened to have a 10 dollar bill on me. It was about 45 degrees outside, a bit windy, super late, I felt bad for her, and figured she could use the $10 more than I could use a double cheeseburger combo from Whataburger (Whatasized, duh, I’m not a maniac). As I pulled out my wallet, the lady’s eyes got wide and she immediately started thanking me. I told her it wasn’t a problem and that I hope she would be okay and to have a good rest of the night. She got back into her car and sat there for the rest of my time at that site.

As I finished doing all the testing that needed to be done, I kept looking at the worn out looking vehicle she was in and thinking about the situation. I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m a very cynical person, and sarcastic, and can be an asshole. That lady’s story could have been a complete fabrication. She might be making a killing. Maybe I should have blown her off entirely. It could have all been 100% true. We will never know. But I did my good deed for the day and hopefully it really did help her out in some way.

I guess what I’m trying to say with all my rambling is that we don’t realize what all we take for granted until it’s gone. Maybe we should try to see the good in people as often as possible. Don’t judge each other so much. We don’t know anything about the strangers we come across every day. And it wouldn’t kill us to do some introspective work on ourselves.

My point is, be kind to each other. We don’t know when the bitter bite of death is going to take everything away.

Stay classy, and I’ll see you at the next stop.

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