Today I experienced humanity in a completely different way than I am used to - in fact far and away from what I am used to on most days. I've seen and experienced a lot of different situations in my life and at my age they start to just fall into place like clock work; one no different from the last, same old same old, people are people. What could have been a disaster for me turned into the one of the most eye opening "Wow!" moments involving humans I think I have ever had. I would hate to use the cliche, "renewed faith in humanity", as I am not sure I ever had any full faith conviction in humanity. Today was light, the showing, the reveal, divine.
So let me get to the point. Fisher and I went to The Gulfport Gecko Festival which was an oddball motley of things for kids, food, art and live performances. In all the years I lived in Tampa, I have never been to downtown Gulfport which is between St. Petersburg and the Pass-a-Grill/St. Pete Beach. It was actually a very interesting place which reminded me of my prized home (Philly) artsy fartsy nook called New Hope, PA.
Fisher loves fried fish and we found a real British woman selling authentic Fish-n-Chips - it was the real deal - just like street food in London. As I was cleaning up our lunch, which we ate watching three highly intoxicated men attempting Buffet covers, Fisher slipped off a curb and really scraped his knee pretty badly and he was bleeding. I dove into his diaper bag and got wipes and started wiping his knee and getting it clean. Food went everywhere, things flew out of the bag, Fisher is screaming, a scene, the whole 9 yards. My tough little man sucked it up after about a minute (his knee was still bleeding though and I decided we were done - it was like 95 - and even with 2 coats of 50 SPF, he looked like he was getting burned. So I cleaned up in a hurry, got him in his stroller and off we went back to the car.
I get to the car and start looking for the keys - which have my car keys and fob, my house keys, and my new electronic device to get into work - GONE!
Shit, Shit, Shit, Shit. Fly back with Fisher to place we had lunch - nothing. Retrace all steps. Search bag again and again and again. Make another whole round of the entire carnival. Nothing. Go back to the car. Nothing.
I asked many booths if anyone handed in keys and no. I asked at the Gulf Port Chamber Booth and the lady there hadn't had anyone turn in keys but she directed me to the MC of one of the band stations. And here my friends is when my religious experience begins.
This man, about 50, wearing a straw hat made an announcement on the PA system. He then took Fisher and me back to the Chamber booth. He took me to central command and spoke to everyone there. He stopped several "officials" on the walk as well. He also got us waters which seemed to appear out of thin air. All the while he was talking to Fisher. He got a call on his cell phone from the Chamber. We went back to the Chamber booth and they said that keys were turned in but one of the Chamber members left with them - she is like 80 and accidently took them home with her they thought. The man then left me with the Chamber, I thanked him profusely. The Chamber ladies stopped everything they were doing and called the old lady but she didn't answer. A man named Glen, a Chamber person got on his bike and road to the old lady's house and woke her up. He called back on his cell and told the ladies that she had given them to the police. They called the police and requested an officer to come deliver them. All the while, I am not even sure if they are my keys. They then got us waters, set up an area in their booth which was shaded, helped me change Fisher, held and played with Fisher, calmed me down. They went and grabbed a clown and had him come over and he made Fisher balloons. They asked me what I do, where I live, if I have ever been to Gulf Port, they showed genuine interest in me. In the mean time some time had gone by and Glen got on his bike to ride to the police station. About 15 minutes later another lady asked me (thinking I worked for the Chamber) if I had seen any Keys. I said, "Guess what?, I lost my keys too!" I did remember that there were lost keys at one of the band stands (which were not mine and told her to check there). She came back with her keys and told me she had a Platinum AAA card and would call them and she gets one free car lock out break in. She also said she would take me home if need be. On that note, a Chamber woman told me they have cottages and BandBs and they would pay for me to stay there if need be as well. Unreal!
At that moment an officer walked up and said to me, "Are these your keys?" They were. I welled up in emotion and got tears in my eyes. I hugged all the ladies, thanked the lady who lost her keys for her kindness and also at that exact moment, Glen pulled up on his bike, soaking wet in sweat. I shook his hand. At this point the cop was holding Fisher and just messing around with him. At that point I was seriously questioning if I was dreaming or perhaps someone dropped several tabs of acid in my water earlier in the day.
I am sure having my little angel bear with me helped a great deal, but still. I don't know if this is everyone's normal experience with people, or perhaps Gulf Port is one special hidden gem of a place. I don't know. I don't know what happened today, but it has forever changed me. I feel like I have been passed a torch, a light, and now I am certain that I will be faced with a situation where it will be my responsibility to go the extra, extra mile to help someone in dire straights in the not to distant future.
I also want to thank Jenny who was in Palm Coast; I called her several times and her reminder of our faith and calming words helped guide me positively.
So if you are ever in the area and want to see a funky little town with some neat little restaurants and some really fine people, take a day trip to Gulfport, FL.