The Man at the Diner

A moving truck breakdown led to an unlikely encounter...

- Posted on Jun 7, 2011

It was the day of my family’s big move, from New Wilmington, Pennsylvania a hundred miles south to Stahlstown. My wife, kids and dog went ahead in our car while I drove the rental truck full of our belongings. Driving down the Pennsylvania Turnpike, I got a bit nostalgic. Stahlstown was just a skip away from where I grew up, Charleroi.

My great uncle had been a prominent figure in Charleroi, owner of the Fox Grocery Company, a food wholesaler. Every summer, the company hosted a big picnic at Deems Park for employees and their families—with all the food, fun and games a kid could hope for. The only restriction was to stay away from the foul-smelling sulfur creek that ran through the park. Of course, we ignored that. When I was five years old, I chased some older boys as they dashed across a log and I slipped. The yellow mud of the creek sucked me up. I struggled to get out. Suddenly, a big pair of adult hands grabbed me and pulled me from the stinky water. My parents thanked the man profusely. I, on the other hand, sat wrapped in a towel, stripped of my wet, smelly clothes, and stewed in my embarrassment.

My thoughts were interrupted by a grinding sound. The truck's dashboard lights lit up like a Christmas tree. That’s not good. I pulled the over. A breakdown. With a good deal of driving still ahead of me. Lord, why now?

The tow truck dropped me off at a small diner to grab lunch while repairs were made. I sat down at the counter and looked at the people around me. An older gentleman sat two stools down. He wore a work shirt with a patch. Fox Industries, it read.

“Fox Industries, huh,” I said to the man, striking up a conversation. “I remember when it was called Fox Grocery Company.”

“Me too,” the man said. “I’ve been working for them for years.”

 “I used to go to those company picnics when I was a kid,” I told him.

“I remember the picnics,” the man said. “In fact, I once had to rescue one of those Fox kids from drowning in that sulfur creek.”

Now I knew why my truck had broken down. I held out my hand. “Thank you,” I said. “That kid was me.”

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