Day 6:

Southern Hospitality

On my way out of Memphis I stopped by Graceland and found out I wasn’t as much of an Elvis fan as I thought. The tour and parking were over $60, so I opted to peer in at the house from the surrounding rock wall like a stalker and take pictures from afar. The rock wall was covered in scrawled notes of undying devotion from Elvis fans. I felt I wasn’t worthy to write on the wall since I didn’t pay the $60.

Today’s drive was about 7 hours into New Orleans and I wanted to get going. I saw a sign for a Cracker Barrel restaurant about two hours into my drive. I’ve seen signs for them at every turn off since I left New York, so figured I should try it once. They had that “Grandma’s house in the country” feel. There was a lot of basket weave, rocking chairs, and doilies. I had no plans to stop in Mississippi, but the restaurant showed me a great cross-section of Mississippi folks. The dad of the family seated next to me was wearing a camouflage hunting hat and a burly beard. He and his wife were arguing loudly. One of them stormed off yelling obscenities as he left, then one of the kids started bawling. An old couple was staring silently into space while waiting for their food, and didn’t talk to each other the entire time. Another older man was starting conversations with everybody around him, whether they liked it or not. Two ladies came in and were very rude to the waitress, really talking down to her. I gave her a bigger tip than I planned to. I just felt bad.

I left the restaurant, hopped in my car, and discovered it wouldn’t start or even turn over. The battery light was on, and I assumed this was the problem, so I started asking folks for a jump. After about three or four tries, one guy drove over to my car to hook me up. He was a photographer and we started a friendly conversation about it when he saw my camera setup. We shared each others work and friended each other on Facebook while waiting for the car to charge.

I tried turning it over again and it still didn’t start. He stayed with me, inspected the car, cleaned the connections, and said he thought it could be the starter. If I couldn’t fix it, I would have to leave the car in front of Cracker Barrel and stay at a motel in the middle of nowhere until the repair shops opened on Monday.

He offered to drive me to the nearest auto parts store to get a starter, which I happily accepted. He drove to five different stores to find the part, with no luck. Then to my surprise, he offered to put me up at his place with he and his wife for the night.


A True Southern Gentleman


Before we got to that point, he had the notion to try push starting it, so we drove back to the car and gave it a shot. Hallelujah, it worked. I was so overjoyed that I gave him a firm hug that he probably wasn’t expecting. I couldn’t turn the car off again without having to push start it, but I didn’t care, any way I could keep going, that’s what I would do. For the next 5 hours I drove without stopping until I pulled into my motel parking lot in New Orleans.

I got into the motel right before dark. The car didn’t start up again after I turned it off, so tonight I figure out how to find a starter and repair the car during my three-day stay in New Orleans. Tomorrow will be tough.

I had plenty of time on the road to think about what this guy did for me. This complete stranger spent 2 hours of his Saturday trying to help me. He did not want to give up until he knew I was okay. He was a true southern gentleman. I’d never experienced that much kindness from a complete stranger before. It was amazing. Wherever you are, thank you buddy. You’ve restored my faith in humanity.