While the tank was filling, I decided to go inside the store for a drink. As I walked in, I noticed the same guy had walked in just ahead of me. I headed to the cooler and heard him ask, "Gas cans?"
As I came to the counter, he was paying for a red container. It was one of those hot and muggy days we had awhile back, where you feel like you're swimming through the air not walking. He had beads of sweat running down his face, and his t-shirt was spotted also. He looked pretty miserable.
He was polite but perfunctory speaking to the clerk. As he said "thanks" and walked out the door, I recognized the tone in his voice because I've used it before myself. When for whatever reason I'm having a terrible day, but don't want to take it out on the person just doing their job. Tense and tired, but unemotional. Dealing with something unpleasant or frustrating, but just dealing with it anyway because that's the only option.
I paid for my drink and left the store, mulling it over. He hadn't asked for help. If he had, I probably wouldn't have been comfortable with it. But because he was politely enduring his bad day, I decided to try to make it better.
He was crouched by a pump, filling his container with gas. I walked over and said "Hi". He returned the greeting without looking up. I asked the question with an obvious answer. "Run out of gas?" He affirmed my guess.
"Do you want a ride somewhere?"
He looked up at me for the first time, smiling in surprise. "Yes actually that would be great. I'm just up the road a ways. Thanks, yeah!"
I smiled back. "No problem, I've been there. It sucks, doesn't it? My car's right over there, come by when you're ready."
We introduced ourselves, put his can in my trunk, and he got in my car with me. I turned the air conditioning way up for him. We chatted about various things as I headed north; he is a college student at OU, the car is new and it didn't warn him that the gas was low, stuff like that. His car was about a mile away, stranded in the left-turn lane. I parked mine behind it and made sure he got it started again.
I had to tell him how to use the funnel on the spout. "Don't worry about it. Like I said," I smiled, "I've been here before."
The car started, and we waved at one another and drove away. I headed off with a smile on my face. I hope he did too. It had only taken maybe 10 or 15 minutes of my time, but I think I was able to make him feel a lot better. And it cheered my day as well: it felt really good helping somebody out!