It wasn’t until we were within a couple of blocks from my home that I asked my drivers how much they were being paid to drive me to the VA clinic in Portland, Oregon, wait several hours while I was being treated, and then drive me back to my home in Bend.
The departure point for Portland was only five blocks from my house so I elected to walk the snow-covered alley instead of drive on ice-covered streets at 5:45 AM. That meant I needed to get out of bed four hours before my usual time, dress hurriedly and get moving. Which I did, and arrived precisely on time. There was one other traveler to the Portland VA and two drivers, and we were rolling promptly.
I hadn’t wanted to drive my car over the Cascade mountain passes when there was a terrible storm expected, and I canceled my previous arrangements for a motel near the hospital. Driving time in perfect conditions is 3 h 17 min (164.2 mi) via US-97 N and US-26 W, but the conditions were predicted to be miserable, with possible road closures. I felt that if I took the transportation the VA provided and there was a cancellation due to weather, it wouldn’t show on my records that I missed an appointment.
The ride went reasonably well despite the weather, and over the mountain pass there were snowplows leading the way, clearing snow and spreading gravel ahead of us. It took us about an extra hour to get to the VA hospital.
There were lots of veterans there, most of whom were in various stages of decrepitude. Most of them were clearly overweight and many were in wheelchairs because of their extreme obesity. I got my fourth and final prostate cancer hormone shot not long after arrival but had to wait until 1 PM for my physical evaluation, and then another hour to get my blood sample drawn for the PSA (prostate-specific antigen). Nearly all eighty-four-year-old men have prostate cancer, but this disease is most dangerous when it shows up in much younger men.
My drivers patiently waited around all through of these procedures, and we didn’t get started back toward Bend until after 2 PM. The weather had worsened and at the higher altitudes, we were only going twenty-five mph for maybe fifty miles. Once out of the mountains, we were able to go about fifty mph maximum because of snow and sleety rain. My driver was very experienced with driving this highway, having been a forester here for decades in his previous career.
When nearing my home I asked how much they were being paid for putting in a thirteen-hour day doing something inherently dangerous and boring. “Nothing.” They were doing it as a free service for our veterans.
I routinely do simple little good deeds when I get the chance. The smaller the better because there is so much more opportunity, but these guys were putting in thirteen-hour days, doing much more in a day than I even come close to in a month.
There truly are good Samaritans amongst us, and I unknowingly was a recipient of their kindness. A hearty THANK YOU to all of you unknown good people.