About two weeks ago — almost on a whim because I had all but forgotten I had one — I took my bike to Richardson Bike Mart for a tune-up. Three days later, they called to tell me it had needed a new chain and new tire, and it was ready to go.
Great! I thought. Then I promptly forgot all about it. But on Friday, after my evening plans fell through, I suddenly remembered my ready-to-go bike. So I put the back seats down on my little Fit, scooched my gym bag and yoga mat over to the side to make room for my bike, and drove over.
Not surprisingly (if you know me), I didn’t have the receipt. No problem, said Jack, the amazingly helpful person who asked if I needed assistance (and, to his credit, if he ever rued doing so, never let on).
So he asked my name. I said it was either under Barker or Garcia; I wasn’t sure which. He checked both, and then checked them again.
“Hmmm,” he said.
After a few more minutes, I offered to go to my car to see if the receipt was there somewhere. “If you don’t mind,” Jack said, “that would be great.”
Of course it was nowhere to be found. So back I went. He asked for my phone number, then if I had bought the bike there. I couldn’t remember. Probably, I said; I can’t imagine where else I would have bought it.
He looked. “Well, I see you bought a bike in May of 2012 and returned it.”
Oh yes, I said. My son decided he didn’t want a bike for a high-school graduation present. Jack kept looking, finding the 18-year-old bike I bought before my failed triathlon six or seven years ago. But he found no record of my mountain bike, which I only remembered was a Schwinn and blue. (It WAS a blue Schwinn, right?)
He said, “I hate to ask this, but are you sure you brought it to this location?”
“Oh, I’m sure,” I said. “I live about two miles away.”
I was started to question (which I do periodically but never quite on this level) my sanity. What if never brought it in? What if I’d never even owned that bike? What if I HAD brought it in and picked it up, but didn’t remember doing so?
So I asked, “If — and I don’t think I did this — but if I picked it up and forgot I did, would you have a record of it?”
Yes, he told me. Even if I hadn’t paid for any repair, he’d still have a record.
“Let’s look for it together,” he said.
Oh my gosh, I felt like I was in the back of Santa’s workshop. Bikes of all colors and prices and ages were everywhere, neatly lined up, ready to be picked up by people who didn’t lose their receipts.
By this time, I could hardly even remember what it looked like. But I dutifully followed Jack, and after stopping at what seemed to be every blue bike, we were empty-handed.
Finally, from somewhere he produced a yellow piece of paper that was supposed to match another yellow piece of paper on a bike. He wheeled out a blue Schwinn — but it was much nicer than mine, and newer.
I truly began to think that if I went home at that point, someone else would be living in my house. Mail in the mailbox wouldn’t have my name on it. If I rang the doorbell, the residents would say they had lived there for 20 years and had never heard of anyone with my name.
If I called my sisters or brothers or my mom, they’d swear I had the wrong number; that there had never been more than four Barker kids.
I was George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life and I think Jack knew I was about to cry.
“Let’s check the Leslies,” he said. “Sometimes people file the work orders backwards.”
He read the names out loud, shaking his head at one. I can’t remember what it was; something like “Wa-boon-ay.”
“That’s kind of odd,” he said.
He read a few more, then next thing I knew, he handed me the work order with the name, address and phone number I had filled out.
I was Leslie Wa-boon-ay! I don’t think I’ve smiled that big in — well, at least a few days. I don’t think I’d stopped short of hugging a total stranger (who by now felt like a comrade, a confidant of sorts) in — well, years.
Jack wheeled my bike — MY BIKE!! — out to the car, after first replacing the handlebar covers because he said they felt sticky. He hoisted it into my Fit, apologized, thanked me for my patience.
I apologized, thanked him for HIS patience, and flung my arm around his shoulders.
“Thank you,” I said again.
So for people like Jack who take the time to make things right…for patience…for being reminded that yes, we really DO exist…The Grateful Runner says thank you.