A moment in the life of a working class hero

My husband is a working class hero. A jet plane mechanic who goes unquestioningly to work every night, because working is what you do for your family. And because you respect yourself. I love that about him. But this morning, he dazzled me with a burst of Sparticus that left me thinking about what a hero is and what makes the common man delicious to know. And to love. And to read about.

I tend to bogart the back corner table at Starbucks, where there’s a steady supply of caffeine for me and electricity for the laptop. Gary gets off his night shift at the airport at 8 AM and joins me there, reading the paper, doing the daily Sodoku and crossword puzzle. Sometimes we sit and chat. Sometimes we just sit. He’d just settled in across from me with his coffee when I glanced up and noticed a tall, skinny kid walking briskly out the door. With the tip jar.

Without a second thought, Gary bolted after him, chased him out into the parking lot where his friend was waiting in a bright red sports car. The kid dove into the passenger seat. Bellowing like a centurion, Gary seized hold of the door and held on as the driver jerked the wheel to the side, butting Gary with the front bumper as they blazed out of the parking lot. Unhurt and buzzing with adrenaline, Gary hurried back in and called the police, while I sat there, stunned, seeing with a writers cursedly vivid imagination how this encounter could have very easily gone horribly awry.

What could he have been thinking? A fifty-five year old man chasing after a twenty-year-old punk for a lousy—what could it have been this early in the morning? Sixty bucks? Clearly, he didn’t think. He just acted on autopilot. It was one of those crystallized moments that tells you: This is who you are.

The dude who took the tip jar had obviously given it some thought. As had his friend who was waiting in the parking lot. The writer in me again rears her ugly head, insatiably curious about their backstory. What brought them to this moment, this choice? Being a sappy “everybody is somebody’s baby” type, I actually felt a stab of sympathy for them. Gary is 6’3” and then some, weighs 300 pounds (and then some) and shaves his head. At first glance he looks like the love child of Annie Lenox and Andre the Giant. When he seized hold of that car door, both those scrawny young guys looked scared shitless. In their autopilot moment, they swung that car in a Y-turn and took off, not knowing or caring what they might have done to the human being they left behind. And in his give it some thought moment, Gary got their license number instead of taking after them in his truck.

It’s well and good to be able to do the right thing on further consideration, but a man is who he is in those perfectly crystalized, unconsidered, virgin moments. A coward or a hero. A fool or a scoundrel. Those are the moments in story when the essence of character is revealed.

The redemption – or regret -- comes after.


Holy cow! I'm so glad Gary wasn't hurt!

But what a man! :)
TJ Bennett said…


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