I often tell people that it’s much more meaningful to give of your time than your money. So why am I giving away $10? Good question. I wanted to make a year-long altruistic commitment that I could quantify with relative ease. A monetary amount lends itself very well to this. Having said that, I probably give of my time almost every single day to help someone. Whether it’s giving directions to a lost tourist, watching someone’s bag while they go to the bathroom or cooking something for a friend’s birthday, I do something for someone else just about every single day.
Vincenzo and his new wheels. (photo: Reed)
Well on Day 260 I was on my way to a meeting near 11th and G Streets in DC. I was on foot and cutting through Chinatown when I saw Vincenzo stressing out in front of his blue station wagon at the corner of 7th and G.
“Do you know anything about cars?” he asked me standing in front of the open hood of the car. I made a quick call to tell the person I was meeting to inform them that I would be a few minutes late and then told him that I would try to help but that I didn’t know much about cars. I thought he probably only needed some help pushing the car out of the way of other traffic.
Another passerby, Joel, also topped to lend a hand.
None of us really knew what was wrong with it. The 22-year-old from Virginia Beach explained that it felt like the breaks were on and he couldn’t get the car to move forward. I did what I always do when I’m in this situation and the hood is up. I walked over and took a look at the engine. I don’t know why I do that, I don’t know the first thing about cars. I mean I know the difference between the alternator and the starter, but when things go wrong, I doubt I am going to be able to fix anything.
Joel and I were a little more preoccupied with getting Vincenzo’s car out of the middle of the road so that he could take his time to figure out how he wanted to proceed. I looked over at Vincenzo who now was pacing a little bit saying something about how he shouldn’t have bought this car. “I bought this car yesterday from some ghetto dealer I found on Craigslist,” he told me. Vincenzo paid $2,000 cash for the car. “It’s got 152,000 miles on it.” He beat me, my 2000 Volkswagen has 139,000 miles. Speaking of my car, I have spent over $1,000 on it in the last week, but more on that later.
Then I heard something about an interview. I peaked my head around the hood and asked, “You’re on your way to an interview?”
“Yeah, I’m supposed to be there in 20 minutes.”
Oh man, this is really turning into a bad day for Vincenzo, who is now fully stressed and sweating pretty bad in the 90+ temps. This is not how he envisioned this day going, I am sure.
Finally I ask if I can try to start the car to feel what the car is doing. He tosses me the keys and I get into the station wagon and turn the ignition. I eased off the breaks and the car crept forward. It seemed to be working fine to me. Vincenzo looks at me somewhat puzzled and I frankly don’t know what I did, but we switched places and he gave it a try. It worked! We closed the hood and I gave him my cell number just in case it started having problems again and he was close by.
Vincenzo managed to smile despite the day's misfortunes. (photo: Reed)
A few days later I got a voice mail from Vincenzo. He was at a repair shop getting his car fixed. Apparently his car died again that day on his way to the interview and he parked the car and hopped on the Metro to get to the interview. “There was something wrong with the disc brakes and the left caliper that was making the breaks stick.” It cost him $706 to get it fixed.
As for the interview, he didn’t get the job. “I kind of new that it was a long shot, but it would have been the perfect job.” Vincenzo’s background is in personal training and he is looking for a job with large organizations to build program’s that help keep their employees in good health. Many companies are hiring people like Vincenzo now because they can get cost savings from their insurance provider for offering these sort of services as well as get more efficient employees. He told me that he has personally seen how people in better shape are more productive at work. If anyone would like to contact Vincenzo for work opportunities, give me a shout.
Anyway, it was a tough day for this guy. I was kind of surprised that other people didn’t offer to stop. It was just me and Joel helping him. By the way, Joel works nearby at the Portrait Gallery and said that it was a simple decision to stop and try to help, “I stopped because he needed help, that’s it. He seemed pretty genuine.” Thanks for your help Joel! We need more Joels!
When we spoke he also told me that he donated the $10 to a charity focused on multiple sclerosis. I also learned that he has started to train for some cycling races. He recently kept up with some road racers for 11 miles on his mountain bike. This is not easy when you consider they were riding road bikes and Vincenzo was on a mountain bike. It’s a lot more work and he said he wasn’t even drafting off the other cyclists.
So, I mentioned my car had cost me $1,000 this week. I recently swapped cars with my father and had to get my new car registered and inspected here in DC. It needed some work on the emissions which ran $500. Then I had to get it registered and inspected which cost me a total of $364. Look for the upcoming story about Chad who I gave $10 to while waiting at the Department of Motor Vehicles. And then, get this, my car was broken into last night! So, chalk up another $200 in repairs not to mention over $500 in stolen items. I am seriously thinking about ditching my car and using Zipcar. Anyone done this and been happy?
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