Preakness Day is my anniversary of serendipity.
I make a special point to watch the race every year and remember the day I had the good fortune to learn how dependent we all are on each other.
I was a student at UGA, visiting my brother in Washington. I’d misestimated my expenses and on the final day of my visit, in that pre-credit card era, I found myself outside the gates of the Baltimore race track with one dollar in my pocket. To my relief, it only took one dollar to gain admission to the infield.
Too proud to admit my financial straits, I did without refreshment or gambling. After the race my brother dropped me off at the airport. Again I was too proud to ask for a few bucks. I knew Delta would give me a free Coke and peanuts.
In the air it occurred to me that I couldn’t pay my way out of the Hartsfield parking lot.
A young man fidgeted in the seat next to me. “Man,” he said. “I’m in a mess. I don’t know how I’m going to get from the airport back to school.”
“Where’s your school?” I asked.
“Athens,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve got enough for a bus ticket.”
“Do you have five dollars?” I asked.
He did, just the amount they charged that weekend at the long-term lot.
I don’t remember his name and we never saw each other again. But at that moment we both found that it pays to talk to strangers.