I took exit 242 off I-80 into Mifflinville, Pennsylvania; a small town of 1,253 people, nestled between the highway and a bend along the Susquehanna River. The names of the town and river both seemed like they came from a Dr. Seuss book. This Mifflin person must have been important as there is a Mifflintown and Mifflinburg as well. In Mifflinville, I pulled into McDonald’s for coffee, to use their Wifi and write.
Inside, there was a couple sitting at a table. I later learned their names were Frank and Kathy. She had finished her meal; he still had a few bites to go. Being the helper that I am, I tapped him on the shoulder and offered, “It looks like you’re slowing down a bit. If you need any help with those pancakes and sausage, I’m here for you brother.” He looked puzzled; I’m sure it’s not every day a stranger offers to help eat his meal. I continued, “I’m serious. I’ll even get my own fork and everything. I’m here to help; I’ve got your back friend.” At this point, he laughed, assuring me he had those cakes under control. I found a place to sit.
After writing for a few minutes, I decided to get a cone. The gal at the counter piled the ice cream extra high – I wasn’t complaining. At my table I began devouring the excessively tall tower of vanilla goodness. The man called over to me, “Hey buddy, do need any help with that? I’m here for you if you do.” We shared a good laugh about that. I told him I was doing just fine.
Seriously people, sharing pancakes with a stranger - when you each have a fork of your own - is one thing, but sharing an ice cream cone? I don’t think so, Frank.
It’s okay for a guy to share a cone with his child, wife or girlfriend – but never with a stranger. Still, I wanted to show my appreciation for Frank’s offer to help. I went to the counter and ordered another ice cream cone – this one was for Frank. The gal at the counter again provided a very generous portion of the creamy dessert.
When I turned around, Frank was walking away. I handed the cone to Kathy. She also looked a little confused. “Your husband offered to help with my ice cream cone, but that would be kind of gross. I thought he wanted some ice cream, so I bought him a cone of his own.” We shared a good laugh about that. She took the cone.
“Frank went to the restroom.” Kathy told me, “I’ll hold it until he gets back.” I returned to my seat.
Over the top of my computer screen, I observed Kathy holding the cone, eyeballing the ice cream. It was starting to melt a little, so she licked the drip away to keep the cone nice and neat. She looked toward the men’s room. With no sign of Frank in sight, she took a lick up the side of the cone, then another. Temptation overtook her and she took a full bite off the top. Soon she was enjoying Frank’s cone with shameless delight. Frank returned to the table, questioning, “What this?”
“Well,” Kathy said, wiping her mouth, “that man over there bought you an ice cream cone since you offered to help him with his.”
Frank looked at the cone, “He bought it for me? It’s half gone!”
Kathy said, “It was starting to drip, so I helped you out a little until you got back.”
Stunned. Frank repeated, “It’s half gone. Were you going to save some for me?”
Kathy replied, “It was a big cone. I helped you…a lot.” We shared a good laugh about that. She took another lick before handing the cone to Frank.
We ate our ice cream and had some good conversation. When we were done, we said our farewells and went our separate ways. I thought to myself how much better the world would be if more people were willing to help others – even a stranger. I offered to help Frank with his pancakes. Frank offered to help me with my cone. Kathy didn’t offer at all, she just jumped in and helped. It was a good day.
Next time I’m heading east on I-80 through Pennsylvania, I’ll stop at Mifflinville and explore the town a bit to see if I can meet some more nice people. Maybe I’ll find someone who needs a little help.
a broadcaster, pilot, writer, and our Guest Columnist!