A Small Detour

by Eric
Michigan, USA

Some years ago my fastest route across Florida to get to my parents’ home was on Interstate 4 through Orlando, which had heavy and dangerous traffic. Often I saw or heard accidents, and my parents worried about me driving through that area. But I knew the roads, the cheapest place for gas, and exactly where all the rest areas were, so I wasn’t all that worried.

One night, at my cheap gas stop shortly before I reached Orlando, a stranger with an accent asked me a question. His companion, a woman with an Irish-sounding accent, added details. They had gotten married the previous day in Ireland, then flown through the night to Orlando via New York, and rented a car to drive to their hotel for their

But on the way, they misunderstood a direction, missed a turn, and ended up on the Interstate headed out of town. They were 20 miles from town.

A Small DetourThe groom was Italian and had spent years driving on left side of the road, but now had to drive on the right. I could imagine how difficult it would be simply to drive in a foreign city in a rented car. I knew I couldn’t give him directions that he was in any condition to follow. No doubt he was fatigued from a day and a half without sleep, and maybe little enough sleep the previous night. Weddings can do that.

Their simplified map showed they had driven past their hotel — and it was only about a mile or so off the freeway and out of my way. As a rule, I avoided leaving the Interstate in Orlando on a weekend night, but I made an exception and led them to their new doorstep.

When I said my goodbyes, they tried to push a thick wad of bills to me, but I refused. I said it was a wedding present, and that they could help someone else down the line, if they wanted to. I just couldn’t take that money, even though they tried to insist, and my eyes bugged out at the sight of at least one fifty dollar bill and a hundred on top
of the wad.

Even though my car was ten years old with 120,000 miles on it, it felt *great* to refuse the money. I don’t know how much was there, but it wasn’t worth the satisfied feeling I had for the rest of the drive to my parents’ house.

Years later I smile at the warm memory of being able to help someone on their wedding day. I hope they are as happily married as I am now. Sometimes a minor inconvenience for you can mean a major problem solved for someone else. Sometimes enduring a minor inconvenience can mean solving a major problem for someone else.

Originally published as HeroicStories #351 on Oct 24, 2002

5 thoughts on “A Small Detour”

  1. Just a note- the author must be mistaken. Italy doesn’t drive on the left side of the road, they drive on the right, just like the U.S. They always have.
    Typically, only nations who were (or in some cases, are still) under British rule, such as Australia, India, and South Africa drive on the left. Even so, not all of them follow this rule- Canada and Taiwan, for example.

  2. I had a similar incident in Pittsburgh. I was in a gas station fueling up for the 250 mile drive home and someone came up and asked me if I knew were Kennywood Park was (an amusement park near Pittsburgh). I said yes, but you are completely on the wrong side of town. I was heading more or less in the same direction (although not the route I normally take home) and so I told them I could get them to the Interstate exit for the park and they could follow the signs from there. I gave them my cell number in case they got separated in traffic and we headed out. I pointed them towards the exit, waved and continued down the road to go home. Imagine my surprise when about a week or so later, an envelope arrived in the mail from a name I didn’t recognize. Inside the envelope was a picture of the couple I helped on the roller coaster in Kennywood. Inside was 2 tickets to the park, and a note that said “thank you for helping us have a great day at the park. We never would’ve made it without your help” and explained that he was a volunteer at the police dept where they lived and he looked up my license plate to get the address.

  3. Just because the Italians drive on same side of the road as we do doesn’t mean the Italian man in this story actually lived in Italy!

    That said, I love this story because it tells people that a simple thing such as helping someone get to an unfamiliar destination can be a very important thing to the people involved. There is nothing so scary as the feeling of being lost in a strange city.

    Bless your heart, Eric!

  4. My husband and I live in a small town in South Texas. Many years ago, we took our Austin Healey 3000 out for spin locally. On our way home, we seemed to be followed by a laden-down foreign car. It followed us into our driveway! We got out of our car and walked to the other car to see what they wanted. There was a German couple in the car; they had had their car transported from Germany so that they could take a driving tour of the United States. They also wanted to know if we wanted to sell them our Austin Healey! We told them we were very fond of it, but appreciated the compliment. They then asked how to get to Corpus Christi, which is about 35 miles from our home. We told them to follow us, and we gave them a loaf of Fresh Fig Bread and a jar of Fig Jam we had just made. We got the address of their motel and had them follow us to Corpus. We didn’t have any other reason for going other than to help out these cheerful tourists and hope they would think of the U.S. as a friendly place.


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