For three long weeks I’d planned this day, right down to the last detail. Timings, routes, and possible delays I had taken into consideration as I worked out the best way to my destination.
A couple of weeks before, I’d finalised the design to be tattooed up my right side, something I’ve wanted to do for awhile now. Sure, I’d seen hundreds of designs and yet felt the need to draw my own. That’s what I did one night after work.
Yes, it’s rough and not to scale, but it’s been a few years since I took up a pencil to draw. Happy that I’d got the essence of my idea in mind, I duly sent it to the tattoo artist to make ready. In the meantime, I had to mentally prepare myself for the inevitable pain which comes from such an endeavour. A lifetime ago, I had two much smaller pieces on each arm, but nothing like the scale of the piece I had in my mind.
Next, I’d planned the timings to make sure I arrived at the agreed hour. My plans were based on travelling from Goole, where I live, direct to Lincoln, a distance of forty-eight miles. On the Wednesday before I was due to go for the tattoo, a slight change of plan had to be implemented, which meant that I would now leave from Sheffield instead of Goole. Okay – no problem, I’m a trucker afterall. I’ll just modify the plan, adjust the timings and leave a little earlier to compensate for the few extra miles.
All went to plan. I set off with enough time for a steady drive on a beautiful sunny day. I felt good, mentally ready for the pain element to come and in no way underestimating the time it would take to complete my design. All was going well, I battled through the roadworks, dodged the traffic, wound my way across from the main M1 out towards the beautiful cathedral town.
I was flying … open roads, little traffic now and just seventeen miles to go. Hang on … that sign read Toll Bridge 1/4 mile ahead CASH ONLY. Ummm, I don’t have any cash. I rounded a bend on the country road as a local pub flashed by on my left. A small cut-out for vehicles to turn came up on my right as I pondered how I’d get over the bridge without cash. I was facing a SEVENTEEN MILE diversion back the way I had come, surely missing my appointment. At a loss for what to do, I turned the car around and pulled into the pub car park. Two elderly ladies sat at a beautifully laid out round table, discussing something with a passion over tea as the summer sun shone through the windows. I approached the bar.
“Yes, sir. Can I help you?” the bar lady asked.
She was young, probably in her late twenties, I thought.
“Hi. Do you know where the nearest cash point machine is?” I asked, flustered and praying it would be close.
“Is it for the toll bridge?” the young lady asked.
“Umm, yes. I had no idea there was a toll bridge here. I have cards but no cash at all.”
“What are you driving?” she asked.
“Umm, just a battered ford.” I replied, a little perplexed.
The strangest thing happened then. Without so much as a word, the young bar lady pushed a button on the till, scratched around for a few seconds and produced two twenty pence pieces. She handed them to me with a broad smile.
“There you go!”
“But I … ” I began.
“Really, it’s okay. We do it all the time. It’s a long way to go round it. Please, it’s no problem. Enjoy your day.”
I smiled at the lady and accepted her kindness, but not before taking the name of the pub and her own. She was called Charlotte.
This is the card I took from the pub. I have to say, it wasn’t the 40p the lady gave me which really got to me, it was the fact that she showed me, a complete stranger, such kindness without asking a single question. Though she wouldn’t know it, she saved my day from certain disaster as the tattooist is extremely busy and usually hard to book.
Suffice to say that I made it with minutes to spare and the result is stunning – if painful.
I took the card with the bar lady’s name because I intend to send her a copy of my book, Salby Evolution, signed with the two twenty pence pieces taped inside the cover. She didn’t know that I write books, she didn’t know my name. I can only hope that when it arrives, she will look at it and smile, just as I smiled for her kindness towards me.
That single instant in time not only saved my day – it also lifted my spirits and helped me face the discomfort I knew was coming for the sake of the above body art. It’s thanks to Charlotte at The Bridge Inn that I can share this with you all today. Her Random Act of Kindness helped me no end. I owe her far more than two coins.