Today you… tomorrow me

Just about every time I see someone I stop. I kind of got out of the habit in the last couple of years, moved to a big city and all that, my girlfriend wasn’t too stoked on the practice. Then some shit happened to me that changed me and I am back to offering rides habitually. If you would indulge me, it is long story and has almost nothing to do with hitch hiking other than happening on a road.

This past year I have had 3 instances of car trouble. A blow out on a freeway, a bunch of blown fuses and an out of gas situation. All of them were while driving other people’s cars which, for some reason, makes it worse on an emotional level. It makes it worse on a practical level as well, what with the fact that I carry things like a jack and extra fuses in my car, and know enough not to park, facing downhill, on a steep incline with less than a gallon of fuel.

Anyway, each of these times this shit happened I was DISGUSTED with how people would not bother to help me. I spent hours on the side of the freeway waiting, watching roadside assistance vehicles blow past me, for AAA to show. The 4 gas stations I asked for a gas can at told me that they couldn’t loan them out “for my safety” but I could buy a really shitty 1-gallon one with no cap for $15. It was enough, each time, to make you say shit like “this country is going to hell in a handbasket.”

But you know who came to my rescue all three times? Immigrants. Mexican immigrants. None of them spoke a lick of the language. But one of those dudes had a profound affect on me.

He was the guy that stopped to help me with a blow out with his whole family of 6 in tow. I was on the side of the road for close to 4 hours. Big jeep, blown rear tire, had a spare but no jack. I had signs in the windows of the car, big signs that said NEED A JACK and offered money. No dice. Right as I am about to give up and just hitch out there a van pulls over and dude bounds out. He sizes the situation up and calls for his youngest daughter who speaks English. He conveys through her that he has a jack but it is too small for the Jeep so we will need to brace it. He produces a saw from the van and cuts a log out of a downed tree on the side of the road. We rolled it over, put his jack on top, and bam, in business. I start taking the wheel off and, if you can believe it, I broke his tire iron. It was one of those collapsible ones and I wasn’t careful and I snapped the head I needed clean off. Damn!

No worries, he runs to the van, gives it to his wife and she is gone in a flash, down the road to buy a tire iron. She is back in 15 minutes, we finish the job with a little sweat and cussing (stupid log was starting to give), and I am a very happy man. We are both filthy and sweaty. The wife produces a large water jug for us to wash our hands in. I tried to put a 20 in the man’s hand but he wouldn’t take it so I instead gave it to his wife as quietly as I could. I thanked them up one side and down the other. I asked the little girl where they lived, thinking maybe I could send them a gift for being so awesome. She says they live in Mexico. They are here so mommy and daddy can pick peaches for the next few weeks. After that they are going to pick cherries then go back home. She asks if I have had lunch and when I told her no she gave me a tamale from their cooler, the best fucking tamale I have ever had.

So, to clarify, a family that is undoubtedly poorer than you, me, and just about everyone else on that stretch of road, working on a seasonal basis where time is money, took an hour or two out of their day to help some strange dude on the side of the road when people in tow trucks were just passing me by. Wow…

But we aren’t done yet. I thank them again and walk back to my car and open the foil on the tamale cause I am starving at this point and what do I find inside? My fucking $20 bill! I whirl around and run up to the van and the guy rolls his window down. He sees the $20 in my hand and just shaking his head no like he won’t take it. All I can think to say is “Por Favor, Por Favor, Por Favor” with my hands out. Dude just smiles, shakes his head and, with what looked like great concentration, tried his hardest to speak to me in English:

“Today you…. tomorrow me.”

Rolled up his window, drove away, his daughter waving to me in the rear view. I sat in my car eating the best fucking tamale of all time and I just cried. Like a little girl. It has been a rough year and nothing has broke my way. This was so out of left field I just couldn’t deal.

In the 5 months since I have changed a couple of tires, given a few rides to gas stations and, once, went 50 miles out of my way to get a girl to an airport. I won’t accept money. Every time I tell them the same thing when we are through:

“Today you…. tomorrow me.”

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19 thoughts on “Today you… tomorrow me

  1. The other day my husband went up on the roof to clean the chimney and slipped on the roof. I couldn’t help him, nor could I move the ladder as it was stuck firmly in ice and snow. I ran to neighbors houses but no one was home. I saw some Mexican workers and asked them. They came over, helped my husband down. My husband pulled out a $20.00 but he wouldn’t take the money. May God bless him and his family.

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  2. I wonder whether this is work of fiction. It certainly rings of truth because I’m aware of how the rural poor will pull together to help each other out. It reminds me of things I saw done every day as I was growing up, back before we became so worldly and sophisticated and selfish.

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  3. We have a saying here in Mexico that goes like this: “hoy por tí, mañana por mí”, which means “today for you, tomorrow for me”. I guess he was trying to translate that. I’m glad you got helped and have helped more people in return, have a nice day 🙂

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  4. I believe this story is absolutely true. I have lived in South Texas on the coast for 30 years. We have a lot of illegal immigrants here. I meet a lot of them through my work at school. I have truly never met one who is unkind or unwilling to to help.

    Just keep paying it forward, without any expectations or need to keep score. Seriously. It gives life meaning.

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  5. Just last month, one of my tires blew out and I was stuck alongside the road. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to charge my cell phone the night before so I was pretty much stuck unless I wanted to hike it into the city. Now, I am a really big guy. I’m not sure I could have even made it one mile. Anyway, after trying to flag down some help for 15 minutes, some Mexicans stopped to help me. They were friendly enough, but I didn’t understand anything they said. After a couple minutes of gesturing I figured out that they wanted some “payment” in return for helping me out. I made it quite clear that I was not willing to pay them any sexual favors. I’m not a gay, so I’d rather stand around for another couple hours hoping someone else would stop to help. Once they realized I wouldn’t give them what they wanted, they drove off. One of them turned around and gave me the finger before they were out of site. I was disheartened, but eventually a ruddy looking middle-aged woman stopped to help me out. She let me have her spare tire and even put it on for me! I offered her $50 once she was done. She politely declined, but I insisted. Finally, she accepted and gave me a nice smile. Just goes to show that a $50 white woman is better than five freeloading Mexicans.

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    • Jacoby: One trip out of the city, $20 of gas; A break down sorted by a light-skinned woman, $50; Misinterpretting hispanic people gesturing at their crotch and you as a requirement for sexual “payment” instead of realising your fly was down? Priceless.

      Anyway, your assumption that the people you met were freeloaders is rather telling.

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    • There’s nothing noble about spreading stories that make people hate their fellow man. I’d rather hear the optimistic stories about humanity any day, as these stories beget more generosity and goodwill. Yours don’t. Thanks for sharing though.

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    • fuck you, fucking ignorant asshole. you had the woman put your tire on, too. you’re too culturally ethnocentric to have understood what the mexican people actually wanted. they probably took one look at you and saw an empty brain and proceeded to act accordingly. fuck you again, racist swine.

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  6. Well I don’t know how Crazy Jacoby is but I got good money on him being a Tea Party Member.

    My Story…

    I broke down in San Jose at 1:00am on my way home to Santa Cruz one night, and the nicest Mexican gentlemen stopped to help me. After explaining that the battery was dead he swapped out my battery for his off his running van (that his entire family was in) and directed me to follow him to his house a couple blocks away, as that battery wouldn’t last much longer. As luck would have it he had a similar POS ford in his back yard and in no time he had swapped out the alternator and swapped my battery back. His wife made me coffee while I waited and he would not except any help (I’m sure I would just get in his way anyways) All the money had on me was $60 bucks and he refused to take it, so I gave it to his wife when he wasn’t looking. I will never forget that man and his wonderful family.

    -Dan

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  7. I grew up in migrant worker’s camps all over Washington State. What stood out most in my memories was my mother’s generosity to all she came in contact with. On numerous occasions, even though we had nothing but a pot of beans and lived in a rat infested shack, she gave everything she had for some one in need. One day we were working in a strawberry field when an older brother with this skinny white teenager he’d found wandering the camp in tow walks up to my mother. This kid looked like he’d been sleeping under a bridge for a few months and hadn’t had a good meal in days didn’t make eye contact. He just follow my older brother. I heard my brother tell my mother that this kid was starving and could use something to eat. Mom didn’t hesitate. She told my brother in Spanish to take him back to our shack and feed him. “You know where the beans, rice and tortillas are. And when he’s done tell him he can stay with us until he’s back on his feet.” She said. That boy stayed with us for a few months and mom fed and clothed him and we befriended him until he had earned enough money picking strawberries to buy a bus ticket somewhere. Mom never asked him for room and board. She let him work with us and he kept all the money he was able to earn. That by far wasn’t the first or last time she did that. She never asked questions or made requests, she just gave. And it wasn’t as if we had anything. We simply had the clothes on our backs and enough money to buy beans, rice and tortillas. At 93 she would still do so in a heart beat. But now we’ve made sure she has more than the bare essentials.That’s not saying all Mexicans are good, loving, giving people. I’ve met my share of bad Mexicans. But I was raised by one of the best of them and I can tell you from experience, all my brothers and sisters would do the same thing in a heartbeat. There were 16 of us but unfortunately only 11 remain.

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  8. Us povvo types know this as the way of the world. In my city, the homeless beggars get more money from generous drug addicts (not an oxymoron) or each other than from the thousands of rich bastards that walk past them every day. One homeless woman even used to reverse-pickpocket other homeless people, quietly slipping a tenner in their pocket. If one of them is hurt or in trouble, it will always be another “streetie” who helps while the rich bastards film it on their phones.

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  9. This is one place where I always go with my gut. We have often stopped and picked up hitchhikers and offered roadside assistance. We have never had a negative experience. We also keep at least $5 in “St Christopher money” in the car for those who look in need – often more money but at the least $5. If they use it to buy booze or drugs, so be it. My Dad thinks I’m gullible, but one thing I took from my RC upbringing was, “Whatever you do for the least of my brothers…”

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  10. I get along fine with Mexicans. I have had many help me so many times along the road of life, as I have helped them. Once we were the only white family in a two story apartment complex in central Phoenix. My coworkers thought I was nuts, but it seemed normal to me. Too many people hate. This race issue in Arizona is worse than I have seen since I moved here in ’79. God bless you all, and happy new year!

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