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One Good Turn
I keep a running list of people I want to mail cookies to, and thet list was growing. I would also be driving my granddaughters to southern Minnesota in a couple of days, and they're always up for Papa's Ginger Crack cookies. So, I baked about eighteen dozen. Then, after hand-delivering several bags of fresh cookies, I packed and mailed five dozen more. I put the rest in a bag to take to Addison and Evelyn.
I met my daughter at work to trade my truck for her car. (It gets better mileage) I moved the things I needed to the car. Then I grabbed the bag with eighteen cookies handing them to Sydney, "Do you want some cookies? You'd better grab a few before the girls get to them, or there may not be any left."
Sydney reached into the bag, laughing, "Ain't that the truth."
On the road trip, the girls each ate four cookies. At our destination, Evelyn asked, "Papa, can we take the cookies with us."
"Sorry babe, those are going home for John." I gave them kisses, and I headed back for Duluth.
I hate returning a car with an empty tank. So, I turned off I-35 at the exit to go to a gas station on Superior Street. They usually have the best fuel price in town. I had to backtrack a few blocks, but it's worth it; I topped off the tank.
Driving east on Superior Street there’s a fork in the road; to the right takes you up the hill to Mesaba Avenue - left continues on Superior to downtown, and I can get on I-35 from there. But, to me, it always feels like going right should keep me on Superior, so that's what I did. "Crap! Wrong-way again." No problem, I can take the first right, go downtown.
I missed the first right turn because it was hiding behind tall snowbanks. So, I took the second…or was it the third turn? Anyway, I made my way downtown, then turned left on Superior. I can get around downtown Duluth, but the unlighted street signs were hard to see in the dark.
"Darn it, that was Fifth. I should have turned right," I said as I cruised through the intersection. "No problem, I'll get on I-35 at Lake Avenue.
A few blocks later, I came to a traffic signal. "Is this Lake? No? Yes?" I was talking to myself. The traffic light turned green before I saw the street sign. I started to go straight, then second-guessing myself; I began to turn right, then straight, then saw the Pizza Luce sign on the corner. "This is Lake Avenue," I said and committed to turning right.
Meanwhile, the oncoming car had no idea what the heck I was doing, and he started to turn left in front of me, then hesitated, then turned anyway. So, we were both turning south on Lake Avenue at the same time. No problem, with two southbound lanes, there was one for each of us.
I needed to move to the left lane; the ramp to I-35 comes up quickly. It was awkward trying to change lanes with the other car over there. I had my signal on, and he backed off to let me over. That was nice of him.
The ramp to I-35 North comes up so quickly it always feels like I'm turning onto the ramp coming off the interstate. If I hesitate and miss the turn, I have to drive into Canal Park to turn around and come back. I almost missed it again tonight but quickly made my turn onto the ramp. That's when the driver of the other car turned on his lights. The red, amber, blue and white were all so pretty and flashy!
With my hands on the wheel at ten and two with open palms, the officer came up to my window. His greeting was unusual, not "Good evening," or "May I see your driver's license?" Instead, "Do you know why I'm standing here outside your window on the side of the road?" For some reason, that struck me as being very funny.
I started laughing. (The cop probably thought I was drunk to boot.) Then, I told him exactly what I did, "Of course I do, but was it my first or second erratic turn that caught your attention? Because whenever I'm going to make a couple of uncoordinated, erratic turns, without signaling, I always do right in front of a cop." By now, the officer was laughing too.
He reminded me, "Don't forget that smooth lane change, too." I started laughing again. "I figured you were just lost but have to make sure you’re safe to be driving." He asked me who owned the car, where I'd been, where I was going, had I been drinking – all the routine questions, then, "Can I see your driver's license?" He took my license and went to his patrol car.
While I waited, I started laughing alone again about the whole situation. Although my turns were not pretty, I didn't do anything illegal other than failing to signal; I doubted he would write me a citation for that. He was just checking to make sure I wasn't drunk, and rightfully so. That's his job, and my driving display did give cause for suspicion.
The officer handed me my license, "At least you weren't speeding this time." Hmph. He must have checked my driving history.
After telling me to drive safely and have a good night, he turned away. "Hey, wait a minute," I called out to him. I reached across the seat and offered him the bag of cookies I had saved for John. "Here, I want you to have these."
"For what," he asked?
"For pulling me over and doing your job. I appreciate you keeping the streets of Duluth safe." I was being sincere.
"That's okay, you don't have to do that," he said, politely declining. But I saw the way he looked at those cookies.
"No, seriously. I want you to have them," I said, reaching further out the window, "One good turn deserves another." He commented on my turns not being so good, and we shared a laugh about that. "Seriously if you don't take them, I'm going to leave the bag of cookies here on the side of the road. Don't make me litter!"
He thanked me, took the cookies, and went to his car. For all I know, he may have thrown them away to keep me from littering, but I hoped he would enjoy them. I'd hate to think I gave away John's cookies for nothing.
I turned off London Road, heading to my daughter's house. A teenager was standing at the end of a driveway in the T intersection. I was going to drive by, but it was cold and dark, and she looked distraught. As I turned right, I noticed the car was off the driveway, in the snow. I rolled down my window and backed up. "Are you stuck?" She said that she was and seemed happy when I offered to help. I didn’t mind lending a hand, I was having a good night, and one good turn deserves another.
A second teenage girl got out of the driver's seat. "I must have turned the wheel the wrong way, and my car kind of slid into the snow," she explained. "We tried to dig it out, but it won’t move."
Three aluminum scoop shovels were standing upright in the snow to the side. They had cleared a lot of snow trying to free the car, but it was still in deep. Snow was up against the passenger side and under the vehicle. Both front tires were in ruts where she'd spun the tires trying to get out. We weren't going to get the car unstuck without a lot more digging.
Pointing to my car, I said, "This is my daughter's car, and I can't use it to get you out. But I'm going to get my truck at her house, just a few blocks from here. I have chains and everything we'll need to get your car out of the snowbank. I'll come back in a few minutes, and pull you out."
I returned a few minutes later. There was a third teenager with them now. "Look," she said, pointing to the car with excitement. "We got it to move quite a bit."
"I see that," I said, "That's awesome." Unfortunately, the car was on a slight slope, and they only moved it deeper into the snowbank. I couldn't get around them in the narrow driveway to pull the car forward with my chain, and I didn't want to pull it back any deeper into the snow and chance damaging their car. The bumper of my truck and her car lined up well.
I folded a packing blanket into a small thick square, handing it to one of the girls. "I'm going to push you out of the snow. I don't want to scratch my truck, or your car, so hold this here.” I showed her where I wanted the blanket. “I'll pull forward slowly until I pinch the blanket between the bumpers.
With the blanket positioned as a buffer, I told the girl driving, "Put your car in neutral, and I'll push you forward."
"Do you want me to put it in drive and give it some gas to help," she asked?
"Nope. You just steer the car to the middle of the driveway. I'll do the rest." She got in her car. I made sure my truck was in four-wheel drive, and checked to ensure no one was in front of her. Then I called out the window, "Straighten your wheels."
I started forward slow and easy. My truck had no problem pushing the small car until it rolled freely out of deep snow. I stopped, "Put it in park," I said, then backed away from her car.
I got out of my truck and picked up the blanket. The driver got out of her car. The three girls gave grinning looks and glances to one another as if to silently say, "We did it! We did it." I felt like once I left, they would cut loose and do a victory dance. That’s what I would have done when I was sixteen.
I looked at the passenger side of their car. "It doesn't look like you hurt it at all," I said with a reassuring smile. "Clean all the snow out of your wheel rims; otherwise, they'll shake when you drive."
The driver looked at me with relief, "Thank you so much for stopping to help us."
"No problem at all," I said and wished them a good night.
I backed out of their driveway. As I pulled away, the three girls were in the driveway waving. I gave a couple of toots on the horn and drove away smiling. I felt good about my good deed.
A lot had happened in a thirty-minute time frame, and it all started with a couple of non-typical turns downtown. Granted, they weren't pretty turns, but they got the job done. After all, one good turn...
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