Commentary

Saunders: An act of help – and a response of ingratitude

bsaunders@newsobserver.comJune 17, 2013 

A good deed is its own reward?

Hmmph, let’s hope so, because the knowledge that he performed one is the only payment Richard Spandau received.

At least, he said, “I’ll awake with a clean conscience.”

That’s what Spandau wrote to the well-off guy he kept out of jail recently. That fellow, one hopes, woke up with a debilitating hangover.

Spandau told me last week how he’d stopped at a gas station on Highway 401 near Garner on his way home late at night for gas and lottery tickets. A drunk schmuck was inside hassling the cashier who wouldn’t sell him beer. “She tells me that a taxi driver had put him out there because he refused to carry him any further because of his mouth,” Spandau recounted.

“I asked if she’d called the cops and she said yes,” he said. She told him she’d refused to call him a taxi after seeing how he behaved with the previous one.

Always helping

Spandau, who as a tow truck operator years ago rescued me from the side of the road in the wee, small hours, no longer does that kind of work, he said. But he added, “I’ve helped people my whole life. Just because I’m not driving for Triple A, I ain’t gonna stop now.

“I told her ‘Let me see what’s going on with him’ and offered him a ride home,” Spandau said. “I said ‘If you’ll pay me what you’d pay a taxi, I’ll go ahead and take you home.’”

The stumbling stranger said “Sure, that’s no problem” and hopped in. Spandau said he placed the man’s package in the bed of his truck and drove toward his home 10 miles or so away.

In an unpublished letter sent to the N&O but directed to the drunk cheapskate, Spandau wrote, “You were totally wasted and bugging the heck out of the gas station employee. ... You were going to go to jail whether you liked it or not. ... I offered to give you a ride home. Yeah. A total drunk stranger in my truck. ... Me being unemployed with kids and bills, it’d help us both.”

‘You wanna settle up’

“He said he was from New York and retired,” Spandau said. “I never asked him ‘retired from what’?”

From good manners, perhaps? Judging from what he did when he arrived safely home, definitely. “I get him there and he hops out of the truck and goes walking toward his house,” a big house with expensive toys in the driveway and garage, without a word, Spandau said. “I hopped out and said ‘Hey, you forgot your package. I gave it to him and asked ‘You wanna settle up now?’”

As a former taxi driver, Spandau said he knew a fair fare would’ve been around $15.

“He pulled out his wallet. ... He makes a big play that he’s looking for money. Then he pulls out $3. He doesn’t realize that I actually saw him when he tried to buy the beer and he pulled out a wad of cash that was probably about $2,000 or $3,000.

“When he offered me that, I just said ‘Have a good night’ and hopped back in my truck and left,” he said with a laugh.

I asked Spandau if he could see the guy again – sober – what he would say to him.

“I’m not sure I would say anything,” he said. “If I were in that same situation, I’d probably offer him a ride home again.

“But I’d make him pay up first,” he said.

I will say something to the inadequately appreciative bum. Yeah, you can have moolah and still be a bum:

Say, homes. If your booze-induced fog has lifted and you can focus your eyes enough to read this, read this: Settle up with the unemployed guy who kept you out of the Sheriff Harrison Hotel. I have his number right here.

bsaunders@newsobserver.com or 919-836-2811

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