Tuesday, February 06, 2007


You've likely either read about or experienced the cold snap that's hit much of the country. I'll be the first to admit that it's not as cold in DC as it is in Minnesota, because I've been to Minnesota in the winter. All I concluded from my visit is that I will never do it again.

(I once visited my friend there in December and we were rear-ended as we were leaving the Mall of America. She couldn't even write down her insurance information for the other driver because the ink in her pen was frozen)

(and they have to plug in their cars at night)

(and carry survival kits in the car, just in case)


So no, not as cold as Minnesota, but cold. Dangerously cold, even.

The other day my husband got a call at work. It was the parent of one of his kids. Hi, how are you?

You said I could call if I needed something, right?

Yes, of course. What is it?

We have no heat.

No heat?

The company said it would cost $600 to fill our propane tanks, and I don't have enough.

How long has your heat been off?

Two days.

I'll call you right back.

To the phone he went, calling any local agency he could think of. After several fruitless calls, the Salvation Army came through with $400. A pot of $100 was collected from teachers at the school who wanted to help. The mom said she had enough to pay the remaining $100.

The next afternoon, M paid a visit to see how they were doing. Mom wore several sweaters and her winter coat. Gloves and a hat. Blankets were thick around the baby, her small face barely visible. M's teeth chattered.

What? What do you mean, the heat's still not on?

It's not on. No one came.

M went to his car and called the propane company.

Yeah, we got the order, and the money. But it takes five days to make a delivery.

They have no heat. Come on, man. They have a baby.

She should have planned ahead, then.


There's nothing I can do.

What will it take to get you out to their house tonight?

One hundred and fifty dollars, he said flatly.


One hundred and fifty dollars.

Fine, M said. Put it on my credit card and get your truck out here.

We slept warm in our bed that night.

The next morning I was driving to work. It was a hellish day on the highway. The sky was overcast and no one was feeling generous.

Up ahead I spotted a truck trying to merge onto the highway. Cars pushed forward grimly, bumper to bumper, unwilling to yield. The driver wiped his brow in frustration.

The smooth back side of the truck was emblazoned with the name of the propane company.

For one hundred and fifty dollars I'll let you merge in front of me, I thought. One hundred and fifty dollars will buy you kindness.

My foot sank lower on the brake pedal. My hand made a quick gesture, the kind that doesn't waste any motion.


The driver waved his thanks.

You're welcome.



Blogger E :) said...


8:09 PM  
Blogger BabelBabe said...

beautifully written post.

(in addition to you and your husband being stand-up guys.)

8:09 PM  
Blogger Iamthebookworm said...

Great post. Your husband is a great guy!

9:11 PM  
Blogger Heather B. said...

I'm trying to bite my tongue as to which company this is...but I'll be nice. You two really are wonderful.

9:30 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

You are a better person than I. I would have gunned it. And given him the finger for good measure.

So I'm glad there are people like you and your husband in the world.

9:58 PM  
Blogger Caffeinated Librarian said...


Beautiful post though...and "well done" to both of you.

11:08 PM  
Blogger Bearette24 said...

i'm glad they got their heat on...with help from you both :)

11:12 PM  
Blogger Roxanne said...

Money speaks. More importantly, you guys rock!

I bet that mom will never forget this for the rest of her life. Now you can have sweet dreams about that warm baby. :)

11:59 PM  
Blogger His suzy said...

i can't believe a heating company would do that, and with weather like this, no less!

2:24 PM  
Anonymous betty boop said...

What assholes! (them not you)

3:13 PM  
Anonymous Betsy said...

Can they legally do that? I know there is a law here in Minnesota (and everything you say is true- it warmed up a bit today. We got above zero! Should I keep the fact that it was only 1 to myself?) that companies cannot refuse service in the winter months. Your husband might want to check into that.

6:04 PM  
Blogger kj said...

great story and great piece of writing, liz. your husband is a doll. something unexpectedly good will happen to you two--be on the lookout for it!

that propane company should be reported. i think what they said about 5 days was total bullshit!


12:28 AM  
Blogger Frema said...

Here in Indianapolis a story hit the news about a family whose grandmother died because she was hooked to an oxygen machine and the electric company turned off their power after several months of no payments. According to the family, the company knew that woman was on oxygen and needed power to survive and yet looked the other way, even though in that situation the law requires a ten-day notice before shutting off power. The company is claiming innocence and says they were never informed of her condition. Either way, a woman died before her time. She was in her late forties/early fifties and functioned at full capacity as long as she had her oxygen supply. Unbelievable, and so, so sad.

Your husband sounds like a wonderfully giving man. And behind every great man.... :)

12:45 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

Thanks, all. It was all M.

My own personal superhero.

11:42 AM  
Blogger honeykbee said...

Cold, heartless businesses. MAN that gets my goat.

Thank you, and your husband, for restoring a bit of my faith in humanity.

12:23 PM  

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