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What Matters to me
The sound of the engine starting up was music, a turbo-powered hemi ready to carry us across three states, and in less than 24 hours. The car, an old ’72 Dodge Charger was beautiful. My friend, Matt had just picked it up and completely revamped it, new wheels, new engine and a shiny paint job. He was always good at things like that, probably why we complimented each other so well. I was the brains of the operation, always having to make the decisions and plan ahead. Matt on the other hand, took care of the dirty work and the execution. There was no better team. And so when we found out that Pink Floyd was having a huge, one time only reunion show in New York, we were ready. I planned ahead for months, making sure we had the funds to get there and that everything was in place: hotel, tickets, and any other essential items. The tickets were ridiculous as expected, going for almost $500. I worked all summer and with a small donation from my parents, we were ready to go.
“Do we have everything? Tickets? Money? Snacks? Rockin' tunes for the road?” I was meticulous in everything, and this reflected my personality. My parents were always strict about things growing up. They pushed me through school and it really helped me in the long run. It’s for this reason that next fall I’ll be attending Stanford University while Matt stays home and goes to State. This was our final trip together, kind of a cap to the summer and the last time we will see each other for a while. We grew up together in a small town outside of Durham, North Carolina and I don’t think we have ever been apart for more than a day. We knew we had to make this one special.
“I told you a million times, it’s all here! Can we go, we’re gonna be late?” Matt climbed in the car without even opening the door. He had the top down and he threw his sunglasses on. This was it, the journey began.
“We’ve got a good ten hours ahead of us, but take your time so we get there in one piece.” He hated how I worried all the time, but again it was my parents inside of me talking. We decided it would be better to drive half of the way first and stop a hotel to regroup and spend the night. Not only was this because I didn’t trust Matt driving that long, but also because it would lengthen the trip another day which would give us more time together.
After a couple of hours, we pulled off for some lunch and to fill up the gas tank. When you’ve been in a car that long, nothing seems better than to stretch and grab a cheeseburger. We headed to the closest Wendy’s for a bite to eat. I ordered a Classic Double with fries, a traditional approach, but Matt had to be different and order a fish sandwich. I tried to advise him against it, reasoning that you really don’t want to be eating fish from a tiny Wendy’s in the mountains of Virginia. He was his own man though, and I think he ordered it just to prove a point. We scarfed down our meals, and within fifteen minutes, were back on the highway. I thought this would be a prime time to relax and take in some scenery. I loved the mountains and all of the majestic sceneries that came with them. I awed at the enormous evergreens and high cliffs. There was a good time that I faded off into a daze, but it was quickly halted with a sudden jolt in the car. I awoke and noticed we had pulled over. Matt didn’t look very good, the color was faded in his face and he was hunching over the steering wheel.
“Are you alright man?” I asked. He crawled out of the car to the side of the road and began to regurgitate the very fish sandwich in which I told him an hour ago not to get. He was really sick, the food poisoning hit him hard and I was panicking. We were there for a while, probably a half an hour, watching cars go by and no one stopping to help us. Eventually, I picked Matt up and placed him in the passenger seat of the car, handing him the Wendy’s bag we had left over. I scooted into the driver’s seat, feeling the thrust of the engine starting up again. This was a lot of car I was going to have to handle, a huge step up from my little Ford Escort. I was ready for the challenge.
I drove the remaining few hours to our hotel in Pennsylvania. By this time Matt was feeling much better and could actually function. I was ready to sleep already and I climbed into the warm sheets of the hotel bed. Matt did the same, knowing we had a long day ahead of us tomorrow. The concert was going to start around 9 o’clock and we had to get up early and get back on the road. I closed my eyes and began sweet dreams of rock’n’roll.
“Wake up man it’s almost noon!” Matt’s voice was enthusiastic and got me up quickly. For some reason the alarm in the room had not gone off and the 9 o’clock departure time was now way out of the question. We threw on our clothes and left, not bothering to shower or eat. Matt again was in control of the car and we were on our way, trying to make up some lost time. We had another six hours to go until New York and we were going to be pushing it if we wanted to check into the hotel first. This time the drive was made up mostly of flat nothingness, a huge change from the mountains. I didn’t find it as intriguing and I concentrated on the radio. Matt and I chatted as well since yesterday he had been incapacitated. We talked about how it would be so different in just a few weeks without each other. We were like brothers and separating us was going to be a test on the both of us. All of a sudden, I heard a huge blast from underneath the car. No way was this happening.
“It’s definitely torn,” exclaimed Matt. The tire had burst on something and now we were stranded in the middle of nowhere. Of all the things we had planned for, a flat tire must have slipped our mind and we had no spare. My cell phone had no service and we had nowhere to go. We sat and tried to wait for a car to stop. Then it happened, like an angel from heaven, a man stopped in a beat up old Oldsmobile. He hadn’t shaved in a while and from the looks of it didn’t have much money.
“Looks like you boys need some help. What are we lookin’ at?”
“Well,” said Matt, “Our tire burst and I’ve got the tools to change it but no tire. We’re on our way to New York and have to be there by seven.”
“Well boys, I’m coming from church just now, and the message today was to give as the lord did. I want you to take one of my tires. I’ll wait for someone to come by; I’ve got nowhere to be.” The words were spoken like God himself. It was a miracle, in that five minutes ago, they were going to be stranded on the road, only to miss their show.
“Wow sir, we can’t thank you enough. This is incredible.”
“Just promise me one thing; that you remember this generosity and spread it wherever you go.” The man smiled and helped us quickly change the tire. His generosity made me rethink things. A man with nothing gives us what little he has, only to wait for someone else to share their generosity with him. When we got on the road, I called AAA the second I gained reception again. I explained the situation and the woman on the phone was almost in tears. I told her to use my info and charge anything on my account. It was the least I could do. The rest of the way there, I pondered everything that had happened: Matt getting sick, the late start, and the flat tire. All of these were obstacles that attempted to stop us, but with a little luck maybe some divine intervention, we were able to make it. We checked into the hotel, making it in just enough time to change and get to our seats. The next four hours were the best of my life. To this day, I remember that man who helped make that happen, and any chance I can, I help a person in need. It is a promise that I plan on spreading to more people and to keep its tradition alive.
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