A Pleasant Experience

Came a scratching at the door as I lay in bed without a stitch, 6 p.m., alone on the side of a mountain in Vermont. It wasn’t my neighbor’s knock. Wrapping a fluffy towel around the upper half of the lower limbs, I tiptoed to the door.

A nicely dressed Chinese fellow held up an iPhone at eye level and pointed at it.

It was still raining. I live way up a dirt road off the side of a side road.

His iPhone showed a few tiny lines that looked like a section of a map.

“Yup, the bridge is out,” I said.

He looked at me hopefully and pointed at his phone.

“Chinese?” I said.

He pointed at his phone.

“No English?” I said.

He pointed at his phone.

“Follow me.” I traipsed into the computer room and he followed, after politely removing his shoes at the door. I typed the address from his iPhone into my desktop. Aha. There it was. An easy 10-mile detour — if I spoke Chinese.

I led him back to the door and stepped outside in my towel in the rain.

“You go down to the end of the dirt road this way,” I said, pointing east. “Then you turn right and go that way,” pointing south.

He pointed east.

“No,” I said, “first this way,” east, “then this way,” south.

He pointed east.

“No,” I said. “Wait a minute.”

I traipsed back to my bedroom and he followed me. He wasn’t about to let me go. I put my pants on, under the towel, then bravely dropped the towel, added a shirt and shoes and we were out the door.

He got into a van, on the passenger side, and followed me down the hill.

Nothing to it. All he had to do was drive 5 miles south and turn left past the big pond, then left again where the road ended. And not turn anywhere else for those 7 miles.

I stopped at the turnoff and the van stopped. My friend rolled his window down and the back window rolled down too. An old Chinese man in the back seat, 70 or so, put his hands together and bowed to me. His son in the shotgun seat did the same. The grandson, I assume, bowed in the driver’s seat. The van was crammed full of god knows what.

The nice Chinese men bowed at me over and over. Grandpa and son shook my hand. Everyone smiled at everyone else.

I did my “point this way and then that” routine a few more times and they were off.

I wondered what the hell they were doing, lost in a van with Wisconsin plates on the back roads of Vermont. I decided it was none of business. I hoped they got there, though. Then I remembered I had to come out here anyway to get maple syrup at the Franklin farm, so I did that and headed home.

“Well,” I thought, as I drove home and the rain pounded harder, “that was pleasant.”

I suppose, in this day and age in the United States, I should have turned them in — to someone. Suspicious characters, no? Can’t speak English. My patriotic duty, no doubt, was to do … what?

It was to do just what I did.

I’ve been lost in Mexico, and in France and Germany and Guatemala. I’ve been lost in my own country, with no idea where I was, and people have always helped me.

No one ever asked me for papers or called the police because I was lost, or called me a terrorist.

I’ll tell you something else. Every time the president of the United States broadcasts another vile lie about immigrants, he inflicts more harm on the United States, in our own country and around the world, than any undocumented immigrant from Mexico, or any refugee from Syria, ever did or ever will.

It’s not every day a guy gets to show he’s a real patriot, but on Tuesday I was up to the task.

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