At 2:00 a.m. on the freeway, my headlights died, followed by my car. I was a young woman moving to Florida, driving after sundown because my two small kittens suffered from the summer heat in my un-air-conditioned car. A patrolman gave me a jump, but I resolved to take the next exit and call it a night.
As I pulled onto the off ramp, my lights and car died again. I coasted into Lafayette, Louisiana and came to rest in a convenience store parking lot. I called hotels on the pay phone, hoping for one that accepted pets. If I arrived at a hotel by cab, I wouldn’t be able to hide the kittens with me. I learned that no garages would open in the morning — a Sunday.
The night clerk chatted on her own phone with her friends, talking about me. After two thirds of the city’s hotels and motels had informed me that my kittens would not be welcome, she made me an offer.
“My friend Tammy says you could come over. She lives in those apartments right there. Her dad’s visiting from Mississippi, and they’re staying up drinking with him.”
Tammy, a woman my age, was the store’s day clerk. She supported two younger sisters. They were, indeed, sitting with their father on the outdoor slab that served as a porch, drinking beer at 3:00 a.m. I met their calico cat and thanked them all for taking my kittens and me in. Tammy waved me inside the apartment and told me to take any bed. I chose from among three bedrooms, set up my kittens’ food and litter, and crashed on a bed.
The next morning, the apartment filled with friends and family, some of whom had come for Dad, but most were curious about me. Tammy and her sisters, I was convinced, had not slept. The men discussed my automotive problem and declared that I must stay until the garages opened on Monday.
“My brother’s coming,” Tammy said. “He’s good with cars.”
Apparently the fact that I’d never tasted Cajun food was sufficient cause to throw a party. Despite my embarrassed protests, more friends were summoned and I became the guest of honor at a lunch of chicken gumbo and a dinner of crawdads. I will never forget those wonderful meals, for I have a tender mouth for spices.
Everyone was nice to my cats. Tammy’s brother fixed my car. A cable was missing, and he replaced it with an extension cord. I later sold that car with that cord still in place.
I left Lafayette with a full stomach, a working car, contented kittens, and a deep sense of gratitude. How could I repay such kindness? I sent Christmas cards for three years, but the third was returned, undeliverable. Thank you, Tammy, Cammy, and everyone else. Someday, I hope to help someone else the way you helped me.