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In search of a wheel missing a hubcap

This week’s column, despite its title, is not about the old Leonard Nimoy-hosted TV show which dealt with such subjects as the Bermuda Triangle and lost Nazi gold, and made the assumption that since our ancestors were too stupid to have built the pyramids, “ancient alien astronauts did it.” (To paraphrase Churchill: “Never has so much been believed by so many, without the slightest bit of substantial evidence to back it up.”)
That would make a good subject for some other week, but the kind of quest which I am going to reveal to you now has to do with a man and a hubcap.
Please don’t jump to conclusions and think, ”He’s going to write about a guy whose hubcap flew off, and who is walking along the highway trying to find it.” If you do so, then to paraphrase the old knight in that Indiana Jones movie, you will have “assumed poorly.”
Pulling into a nearby Food Lion parking lot the other day, I saw a hulky, unkempt man walking around with a hubcap under one arm. As soon as I parked and cut off my engine, he made straight for me with his side-tucked “discus.” (My Latin teacher at East Rowan, Mrs. Thayer Puckett, made a lasting impression on me, and I often view certain things as modern-day reminders of ancient Greece and Rome.)
When the man arrived at my window, I shook my head to sort of say, ”I already gave at the office,” because in that same parking lot, people will sometimes ask for a few dollars. On occasion, I have given money to some who have requested it in that very same parking lot. This sometimes gives me the nagging suspicion that among those individuals, the word is out on me, and just as in some “Merrie Melodies” cartoon, I am envisioned with a word balloon floating above my head, and within that balloon the word “sucker” is inscribed.
The man took no note of my headshake, then disappeared below my driver’s-side window, after which I heard a crunching, metallic sound. He rose up by my window and said, “Nope, doesn’t fit,” after which I said, “Thanks anyway,” in kind of the same manner as Maxwell Smart always said, “Sorry about that!”
As I went into Food Lion, I glanced back and saw the man hailing a lady who had just pulled in. Her car, just like mine, was minus a hubcap.
While walking down the grocery aisles, and finding myself in an “analogous” frame of mind about what I had just experienced, I thought of things reminiscent of this gentleman’s quest. To me, he seemed to be the very definition of a man on a mission. I thought of Diogenes looking for the honest man. Willy Wonka’s statement: ”So shines a good deed in a weary world” also entered my thoughts. In addition, I mentally referenced Cinderella’s Prince’s search for the “foot that fit,” as well as Goldilocks’ yearning for things “just right.”
I also recalled a phrase from the funeral oration given by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy for his brother Bobby in 1968: “Saw wrong and tried to right it.” (But instead of being concerned with the great injustices of the day, this man in the grocery store parking lot just wanted to find a wheel upon which the lost hubcap would properly fit.)
When I returned outside with my little plastic bag of grocery items, the man was nowhere to be seen, so I figured he had found a wheel into which the hubcap had most perfectly nestled.
The jaded world immediately entered my mind, causing me to exclaim to myself, “I just bet, that for that most perfectly fitting hubcap, the man requested money from its proud new owner!”
Quickly upon the jaded world’s heels, that always-hoped-for, more perfect world intruded, leaving me to finally say, “But then again, maybe he didn’t.”


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