NEW YORK—Heavy flakes of wet snow lashed into Rich Crankshaw’s face as he stepped out of his car to pull out bundles of newspapers from the trunk at 2 a.m. on Feb. 5.
Crankshaw, 48, distributes Epoch Times newspapers every night and was doing his usual route around Midtown Manhattan. He pulled around Columbus Circle, at Broadway and 60th Street, to drop off papers in front of the Trump Tower.
He got out of the blue Nissan Altima and accidentally hit the lock button on his way out, leaving the keys and his cellphone inside. The car was still running and he couldn’t leave for fear that it would get towed.
Through a thick blanket of snowflakes thunderbolts pierced the sky. But Crankshaw didn’t lose hope.
“Right when it started getting hopeless, it got worse because the storm got worse,” Crankshaw said. “I knew in my heart that something good was going to happen.”
Police officers that patrolled the area inched up in a cruiser on Broadway, stopped to see what was going on, told Crankshaw there was nothing they could do, and disappeared into the hypnotizing vortex of snow and freezing rain.
A news team in a van approached him, asking him to appear in their weather broadcast, but after Crankshaw refused to appear, they told him they couldn’t help. The vendor who had his cart set up offered Crankshaw some tea, but he also said he couldn’t help.
Crankshaw started to look for help and periodically hid in the subway station to warm up. He wanted to stick it out until six o’clock when the distributors would come and hoped that they had his boss’s number.
“I’m former infantry Army, and I’ve trained in extreme cold weather. In terms of toughness, I can handle this,” he said.
Jarice James was driving his snowplow truck that night. He has been working for the city’s Department of Sanitation since September 2012, and has been on the 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift since the beginning of the year.
James’s supervisor called him at 1:30 a.m. to meet at Columbus Circle. “That’s when I saw the car double parked,” James said.
The supervisor told James to go up and down Broadway for his night’s route. But every time James would come back up Broadway, about every hour or so, he would see Crankshaw’s car in the same spot.
“I see this guy standing outside, by the car, he’s locked out of his car, freezing, jacket has ice all over it, and he’s stressed. So I get out, and say ‘What’s going on? Why are you still out here?” James said.
Crankshaw explained and said that if he could get on Skype he could reach someone.
The next time James came around he had downloaded Skype on his phone, and invited Crankshaw into his car to warm up and call on Skype. But Crankshaw couldn’t reach anyone, and it was nearing 4 a.m.
That’s when James did what he does when things seem almost hopeless, he called his wife.
Karen James got up after her husband’s call and started searching for locksmiths. She called six of them and estimated that it wouldn’t cost more than $60 to unlock the car. If anything, she thought, there was a little bit of money in family’s checking account before they got paid Friday.
The locksmith came and unlocked the car for $165. Jarice James, who was nearing the end of his shift, ran to the ATM and got the cash to pay the locksmith.
“I said, OK, $165 it is, whatever it costs to help. That’s what I was there for, and that’s what I was going to do,” James said.
Shocked at the gesture, Crankshaw did something unexpected. He hugged Jarice, and Jarice laughed.
“These people were prepared to just let me go on trust, that I would pay them back, and that’s what touched me,” Crankshaw said.
An Example for Everyone
Jarice James is a born-and-bred New Yorker. Although he appears to be a tough guy, he is a shy and soft-spoken father of two small girls: Samarah, 8, and Amira, 6.
His wife is a self-published author of children’s books, and has been promoting her “You Must” series, the first of which: “You Must Wash Your Hands,” has already been published. Karen based the stories on her inquisitive and animated daughter Amira, who’s a character in her series. The older daughter enjoys martial arts.
The family lives in a small apartment in Park Slope. Karen likes to cook, and her curious girls like to get involved. Their kitchenette displays posters of a football helmet, and the living room has a large picture of the Brooklyn Bridge. A collection of samurai swords hangs on the opposite wall.
The James believes in karma. The two live with the idea that perhaps they can save the world, one person at a time.
“If the person is in need, and if I’m available to help then I’ll do it,” Jarice James said. He’s the first person his friends and family call when they’re in need.
“They call him Superman, because he does everything,” Karen James said.
The incident with Crankshaw wasn’t the first time that Jarice lent a helping hand. As he stepped out of the room, Karen whispered that her husband doesn’t like the attention.
Crankshaw, on the other hand, strongly believed that the couple deserves recognition.
“I was so overwhelmed at how it turned out,” he said. “It takes someone with great compassion and high morals to do that. What they did should be an example to others.”