Jake and his crew had now been in the suburbs of New York for a
few days. His first thought upon entering this area was his surprise at the
devastation. Sure, he had heard about the destruction on the news and had seen
footage of the aftermath of Sandy, but it still hadn’t prepared him for the
actual sight of Sandy’s rage. Telephone poles were down, trees were snapped in
two, and houses were completed destroyed by the storm. Seeing all the
destruction only strengthened Jake’s resolve that it had been the right thing
to come. He felt proud to be able to help out and be a part of the solution to
the horrible aftermath of this disaster.
As the day was wrapping up. Jake and Chris met up with some of
their crew in the next town to finish one more area before calling it quits.
The chill in the air was something that Jake had prepared for, but was not
accustomed to. Clutching the new flannel he had purchased right before his
trip, he put it on over his thermal shirt. Thankful for his thermos filled with
hot coffee, Jake grabbed it but quickly tossed it aside.
“Come on, Chris! I asked you to stop drinking my coffee. Now
there’s none left,” he said as he shook his head, irritated at his friend.
Chris looked up at his boss sheepishly. “Sorry, man. I didn’t
sleep well last night. I needed some caffeine.”
“Well, that makes two of us.”
They rode until they approached the utility pole that needed attention.
Jake and Chris were among the first to arrive and got busy setting up for the
job. Within minutes, the rest of the assigned crew trickled in. The workers
were now familiar with the details and routine of this job, so for the most
part they worked in silence, focused on getting this last job done so that they
could grab some dinner and hit the sheets. It was cold and dark, the night
chill settling in upon them. Jake supervised and helped his crew perform their
individual duties as quickly as possible. As they were just about wrapping
things up, Jake headed over to Steve, one of the older guys directing traffic.
He looked frail and tired.
“Hey, Steve. I got this. Why don’t you call it a night, huh? We’ll
meet you at the hotel for some dinner.”
“Nah, Jake, we’re almost done here. I’m good,” Steve said as he
looked up at Jake with glaring dark circles under his eyes.
“Steve, go. I’m serious. Get in a hot shower and we’ll meet up for
dinner. Boss’ orders. Now go and take Andy with you,” Jake gestured toward
another man on the crew who looked like he was ready for bed.
Shrugging his shoulders, Steve made his way to one of the smaller
utility trucks, calling for his co-worker to join him. Jake took over the
responsibility of directing traffic, slowing people down and stopping cars when
necessary. Yawning, he waved a small SUV along, noticing that the approaching
driver was slowing down, much more than necessary. Jake squinted his eyes to
get a better look. The car came to a stop when Jake stepped up to it and its
window rolled down. Looking back at Jake was a woman who appeared pretty, even
in the diminished light. Wait, scratch that—she was stunning, with long, wavy
hair and piercing eyes. His heart faltered just a bit.
“Hi. I wanted to thank you guys for all of the hard work that
you’ve been doing. We really appreciate you guys coming up here. I think I
speak for everyone,” she said as she smiled widely. Her smile hitched his
breath ever so slightly. Jake smiled back. This was certainly a change. Since
he had been in this area, some people waved, some people smiled, others
remained with their eyes straight ahead, but nobody had yet offered any thanks
verbally. So different from the Southern hospitality way of life where he grew
up, Jake mused.
Here it was different, the pace of life was much faster. People
always seemed to be in a rush, and they minded their own business for the most
part. Sure, being so close to the big city must be nice and the landscape was
quite beautiful at times, but he didn’t think this lifestyle was something he
could ever get used to. It seemed too stressful, too impersonal. He would be
glad to be back home when his job was finished.
The woman leaned over and offered Jake a box of donuts, disposable
coffee cups, and a box of hot coffee. Jake was impressed.
“Thank you, that was very thoughtful!” Jake gushed, thrilled at
the idea of hot coffee. He thought he felt warmth spread across his cheeks
despite the chill in the air.
The woman stared back and smiled at Jake for a minute and then set
her eyes on the road ahead. She waved as she pulled away.
“Wait!” Jake called out. “Wait, what was your name?” But the words
were lost. The mysterious woman with the coffee and donuts was long gone.
“Guys!” he called out as his crew worked on cleaning up for the
night. “Guys! Our guardian angel just appeared, and she brought coffee!”
The coffee and donuts were gladly received, but the idea that
someone would go out of their way to show a random act of kindness truly
touched Jake. He felt the warm liquid slide down his throat and knew that he
would always remember the woman’s thoughtfulness. Who was he kidding? That
woman’s beautiful face was what he would most remember. He just wished that he
had gotten her name.