Hannah O'Daniel was a 23-year-old woman alone in a strange city, her car out of gas in a place that seemed to have none.
But two strangers, in a world filled this week with curses and lines over gasoline shortages, appeared to offer help.
A recent arrival in Rock Hill for a college internship, O'Daniel barely knows the city. She searched for gas on the west side Thursday and finally was in line for gas on S.C. 5 between Rock Hill and York. Then that station's gas ran out.
O'Daniel met a lady in line – and knows her only as Elaine – who told her, “Honey, you just follow me.” O'Daniel followed Elaine over toward another station off S.C. 322 miles away, but at the stop sign, O'Daniel ran out of gas. And the second station didn't have gas, either.
“Elaine said to me, ‘Get in. If we get stranded, at least we will be stranded together,'” O'Daniel said.
They finally found a line – hopefully meaning gas – at a station on Saluda Road near the S.C. 901 intersection. They waited in line, but O'Daniel had no gas can. The store was sold out.
Elaine told her to check the corner house – a relative of Elaine's lives there – and, if that didn't work, just go door to door until she found a can.
“Take the Lord with you,” Elaine told O'Daniel.
A few knocks later, a woman in a brick house gave O'Daniel a gas can. She walked back to the station. The plastic bags that mean “no gas” were going up.
O'Daniel thought she was ready to finally cry.
Elaine talked the owner into three emergency gallons for O'Daniel's gas can.
Elaine did not ask for any gas for herself. Other customers were raising a stink.
O'Daniel got her gas; Elaine took her back to her car. O'Daniel didn't get Elaine's phone number.
Even as tempers flare and unsuitable words flow over the search for gas, the best in some of us finds a way to shine.
Down on S.C. 901 south of Rock Hill, Nichols Store had some gas. A few people showed up with gas cans but no car. They had walked from their cars stopped dead on the side of the road. Store manager Jeff Bolton got them gas and took them back to their cars.
Christine Shaner of Interstate Towing bought a 100-gallon tank just so her trucks could give a gallon or two to people who were stuck. Stan Hammond of Stan's Towing had his guys stop and give gas to people if they saw somebody.
Several times Thursday and Friday, motorists pulled up at Miller's on S.C. 51 at the N.C. state line with strangers in their passenger seats.
“We've had strangers buy people gas cans or even just buy their gas,” said clerk Eric Owens, “as much as $10 or $15 worth. Some people have been in here and seen somebody walk in with a can and offered to give them a ride to their car or wherever they needed to go.”
Oh, and remember that lady who gave O'Daniel the gas can? O'Daniel never got her name, but she remembered where she lived. After she knocked on several doors, one door opened. The man who answered the door said it was his mother who gave the stranger the gas can. He called her.
“I know what I would want if I were in that situation,” the lady said. “I just helped someone who needed it.”
That lady's name is Jane McCrowey. She is 69.
And Hannah O'Daniel will never forget what she and that other stranger named Elaine did for her when she was desperate. They helped.