Hero Howard

Several mornings each week, E and I stop at the convenience store near our house. We have gotten to know the staff fairly well, especially, Howard.

After fighting a cold with fever/chills for two days, this morning was my first adventure out of our home. While I wasn’t headed to work, I did want a real1 Diet Coke. When I rounded the corner, I saw Howard. He was half way between the pumps and the door, walking toward the store with a fire extinguisher in his hand.

When I got inside the store, everyone was laughing, so I asked, “Howard, did you have to put out a fire?” Sure enough, he did. Then I realized, the laughter was the nervous “oh, we’re OK” kind.

Static electricity sparked between the pump and the guy’s gas tank and started a fire. Howard had grabbed the extinguisher by the front door, ran out to the pickup and pump, and smothered the fire quickly. Meanwhile, the girls had run to the back door, headed to safety. The owner of the pickup seemed quite calm by it all. When I looked back out into the parking lot, I noticed something that I had missed before (hopefully because my eyes were on Howard and hopefully not because I pay too little attention to my world): a tanker truck was filling the underground tanks, and his truck and hoses were closest to this very pump/customer.

This was surely a giant disaster averted by some alert employees and one particularly brave man.

As Howard rang up my purchase, his hands were still trembling from the adrenaline rush. I didn’t bother to question why my usual purchase wasn’t the usual price. I wished them a calm day.

Howard, on behalf of our neighborhood, Thank You.


1Real Diet Coke comes in a couple of forms: it has caffeine, it has aspartame, and it comes from either a can or a good fountain. I keep the Splenda version at home. “Our” convenience store has the best fountain recipe in town. (Yes, I know they should all be the same, but they aren’t; several places in town have bad Diet Coke.) From plastic, some of the flavor and much of the fizz is lost.

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