Saturday started out wonderful. And it ended up as one of the worst days of my life.
I shall explain that story by telling you another story.
Mike Lent was a classmate of mine at Hamilton College, he was an ’86, a year behind me. He was a fun guy, great for conversation, the kind of guy who would say to you, “That’s crazy, you’re out of mind, when do we do it?”
Hamilton College winters are brutal winters. I don’t think anybody sees grass on the ground until maybe April at the earliest. And during one winter, I was still going from class to class, from campus building to campus building, in a coat that was more suited for autumn than winter. I don’t know what happened to my winter coat from last year, maybe it just disappeared and I didn’t make enough at my work-study job to get a new coat. Or maybe I was just a knucklehead who still felt about as out of place at a prestigious institution as a Trekkie at a Renaissance Fair.
For some reason, Mike Lent had this intuitiveness about him, where he could sense that something was wrong, and he’d do something about it before you could tell him to stop. Dude actually gave me one of his winter coats – a really nice one – not because I asked for one, or that I was dealing with false bravery to make it through the winter and try to mentally ignore the cold – but he just gave me one. Without strings attached or anything like that.
Spring forward to 2020. It’s a few months before the pandemic, and my ankle is totally destroyed. I’m in recovery, waiting for my leg to heal, and I felt like shit. Next thing I know, there’s an Amazon package. It’s from Mike Lent. He sent me a package of assorted UK chocolates. Tasty ones. Seriously helped me through, mentally and emotionally.
Then came yesterday. One of the worst days of my life. My car had been producing a nasty, burning, fumey smell for a few days now, but I hoped it was just something that would go away. Yeah, it didn’t go away. It got worse. And it got worse at the worst possible time – in the middle of Date Night. And suffice it to say, I had to drop her off and drive the car over to the dealership, where they told me I had a cracked valve. And that it would take a couple of days to repair it, since I brought it over on a Saturday, and after the repairs, they want to fumigate the car and remove as much of the burning smell as possible.
Yeah. Date Night ruined, my car’s up on a lift for a couple of days, and a plan I had to photograph something that night just went straight into the toilet.
Totally awful, no-good, rotten day.
I arrived home. Still feeling like a chump. And why is there an Amazon package on my doorstep? I didn’t order anything …
I brought the package inside, and let it sit on my couch for a couple of hours while I sat and contemplated my failures in life. Yeah, trust me on this. You can say to me, “But Chuck, you’re not an ASE Certified Technician, you don’t automatically know if something’s wrong,” and you can say to me, “But Chuck, it’s just a car. Things happen. Cars can be repaired. That’s why you have a new vehicle service contract and a renewed subscription with AAA.”
That’s not the point. The point is, when I take someone on a date, I want to make damn sure that everything is perfect. Anything less than perfect is a failure on my part.
Okay, what is this Amazon box?
I look on the front label. It’s not from my Reddit Secret Santa exchange, because it would have my real name and my Reddit user name on the mailing label.
Okay. Let’s crack it open.
Inside was a hardcover book, Within The Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision, written by David duChemin. Holy cow. This looks fantastic. I started to flip through the pages. Wow. I can get some serious inspiration and ideas from this.
Oh, look. There’s an Amazon note inside the box.
It’s a note from Mike Lent and his wife. “Hope this book inspires you to even greater creative heights. Merry Christmas, Chuck!”
Sorry, it seems a little dusty in here. Let me rub my eye for a second.
How in the name of all these years does Mike Lent know when someone is in emotional need, and without any thought, he just bestows a random act of kindness upon them? Is it some sort of emphatic reaction to the world in general? Or is it more like the guy is a great person and he just does nice things when you least expect it?
I’m arguing for the latter.
What a great guy. And much thanks for the book. It will certainly inspire me, both photographically and cognitively.
Merry Christmas to you, old bud.
Oh, and I hope you like the artwork I sent you. You know, the one that says “Do Not Open Until Christmas” on the outside of the mailer. 😀