When a Stranger Noticed Me in Front of a Broken Elevator
On Saturday, I met a friend at the Pentagon City Mall in Arlington, Virginia, and I decided to take a cab home because it was raining and there was track work on the Metro. I walked over to the Ritz-Carlton, which was just next door, and the doorman handed me a free bottle of water and ushered me into a cab. As I was getting into the cab, my mind flashed back to the last time I was at that same hotel.
I was living in Springfield, Virginia, at the time and had taken the bus from the Metro to the Pentagon City Mall for a hair appointment at Regis Salon. I don’t usually go to such a fancy place, but I was celebrating. I had just passed the Virginia Bar Exam and wanted to treat myself to a new, professional, lawyerly ‘do.
The bus had just pulled up at the mall, and as I was rolling down the bus ramp in my power chair, my left footrest fell off. It’d been damaged from catching one too many times in the automated gate at the apartment community where I lived (quite an inevitable fate — that gate hated me, I tell you).
I couldn’t do anything about my predicament in the middle of the crosswalk, so I just picked up the footrest and carried it into the mall with me. I thought, I’m not going to let this slow me down.
My hair appointment was at 9:45, but most of the major stores in the mall didn’t open until 10. I was there by 9, early enough to grab some breakfast and window shop on the way in. I was going to make a morning of it.
I rolled over to the elevator to ride down to the food court. As I neared the sign on the door, I felt the color drain from my face… the elevator was out of service until the following day. Not only did this mean I couldn’t get to my breakfast on the lower level, it also meant I couldn’t get to my hair appointment on the third floor.
There I sat, stunned, clutching a broken footrest in one hand and a bruised spirit in the other. I was silently debating the merits of returning home or hanging out at ground level for a while when a hand lightly touched my shoulder.
“Do you need some help?” I heard a man say. I looked up at a handsome gentleman in his late 30s/early 40s with a smile on his face. He had copper hair, brown eyes and evidence of past laughter written around his mouth and eyes.
“My name’s Ken,” he said. “Are you a lawyer?” I looked down, grateful that I’d worn my UK Legal Clinic t-shirt.
“Yes,” I answered. I then rehashed the whole ordeal: passed Bar, hungry tummy, missing footrest, broken elevator, fleeting hair appointment.
“We’ll get you there,” Ken said. I was a little skeptical about following a strange man I’d just met, but in a public place, I felt relatively safe. He proceeded to lead me to every major department store — all of which we found closed, elevators inaccessible.
He just smiled and said, “Come with me.” As we exited the mall and walked into the Ritz together, I began to worry. “Where is this man taking me?” He led me into a restaurant with a huge breakfast bar and said, “Have anything you want — on me.” Made-to-order omelets, fruit, bagels — the selection was amazing. I tried to protest, but he said, “I insist,” so I helped myself to a few pieces of fruit and a bagel.
While I was eating, he came by the table with another gentleman. “Jessica, this is James. He is an engineer with the hotel and I think he can fix your footrest.”
I ate while James worked, and by the time I’d finished my breakfast, the bent footrest was newly attached to my chair.
“Hurray!” Ken said. “While you were eating I rescheduled your appointment for 10:15, and we’re going to take the Macy’s elevator to get you upstairs to the salon in time.” Ken personally escorted me all the way there. I thanked him profusely and asked for his contact information, but he refused, saying, “It’s OK. This is the least you deserve. I wish I could give you so much more.”
As I sat in the chair, Ken looked at the stylist and said, “Make her as beautiful as possible… though honestly, I don’t know how you can make her any more beautiful than she already is.”
And with that, he left.
I sat through most of the appointment in shock over what had just transpired, and when I went to the register to pay, the receptionist said, “Your friend took care of the bill.”
I was amazed. I couldn’t speak. Tears were welling in my eyes. No man (other than a family member) had ever done something so nice for me, and I didn’t even know his last name. I didn’t deserve this… I couldn’t thank him.
I felt so thankful. Shocked. Cared for. Loved, even, in a way.
To this day, I think about Ken and the Regis adventure every time I’m in Pentagon City, to remind myself of a few things:
1. Random acts of kindness do exist.
2. Chivalry is not dead.
3. And if a man I barely know can care about me enough to be so kind, then a man who knows me well should want to do the same.
Most important though, I try to be like Ken, giving to others, no matter who or where they are, if I see they have a need I can fulfill.
To me, caring for those in need is one of the main reasons we were put on this Earth, and I am the type of person who shows love best through service, even if I’m not always in the best position to serve.
Thanks, Ken, wherever you are, for helping me, encouraging me and allowing me to learn from your example.
The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Describe the moment a stranger — or someone you don’t know very well — showed you or a loved one incredible love. No gesture is too small! If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.