We’ve all seen them: those Facebook posts in which two people meet with seeming randomness, only to come away from the unlikely encounter having learned that You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover. Or that There Is a Little Good in All of Us. Or that There But for the Grace of God Go I.
Have you have ever wondered if those stories are real? Yeah, me too.
Well, I can’t speak for all of them, of course, but after this week, I have a little more faith that Some of the Didactic Real-Life Stories on Facebook are True.
You see, this Facebook story came from a friend, Ashley Bailey. Ashley and I used to go to church together. When I was working on my MBA, she was working on an advanced degree in information technology; since my course of study included an IT concentration, we had several classes together and even partnered up for a project in Visual Basic.
In fact, she and her husband, Richard, a recently promoted assistant chief with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro Police Department, used to attend a Sunday School class I taught, over a decade ago.
But enough of that. The point is, I know Ashley, so if she’s the one telling the Facebook story, it happened the way she says it happened.
Here’s her story: In the parking lot of a Greensboro CVS store on Friday, Ashley was loading some purchases into her car when an old man on a bicycle pulled up beside her. Her first instinct was to try to ignore the stranger, and who could blame her? What sort of reputable senior citizen travels around town on a bike?
But her kids, and maybe Someone Else, had other plans.
The man, who Ashley noticed had lost an eye, started cleaning her car rims using the contents of a bucket he had with him:
“I do good work, ma’am,” he said by way of explanation, but after he’d finished one wheel, she didn’t take a lot of convincing.
“I don’t like hanging out with no sign,” the man, who had taken to calling himself Dr. Detail, told my friend. “I work for my money.”
After seeing what Dr. Detail had managed to do for one of her rims already — with no promise of payment yet made — Ashley was quick to ask him to do the other three.
“How much do you charge?” she asked.
“You give me what you think is fair,” Dr. Detail replied.
During the course of his work, they talked. Ashley learned that Dr. Detail had four children, the oldest of whom was 46, and that he had served in Vietnam, putting him in his 60s, at least. He had been an interior designer in New York City after the war.
Like all lives, his had some tragedy in it. Poor health caused him to lose his eye, but that was far from his only loss. His only daughter died at 13 in a house fire, despite the efforts of his best friend, who was a firefighter.
I’ve never met the man, but I have a teenage daughter. I’m willing to bet that Dr. Detail would give up his other eye to get her back.
Ashley didn’t note how much she gave him for the work he did on her car that day, but knowing her it was more than he expected to get and less than she wanted to give. But what Dr. Detail really seemed to want most wasn’t money; he wanted to not be ignored.
“Now, ma’am,” he asked her, “if you see me, Dr. Detail, again and you don’t need any work, just wave to me and say, ‘Hey, Dr. Detail!’ You promise?”
Of course she did.
Dr. Detail is glad Ashley didn’t ignore him Friday, but I’m pretty sure he’s not as glad as Ashley is.