Why You Should Always Keep A $2 Bill And A Can Of Tuna In Your Car

Eddie Lanier began life as the son of a city mayor. But his real family took another 40 years or so to show up. It's pretty rad when it does, though.

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Eddie Lanier: My daddy was elected Mayor twice, and I used to walk down the streets holding his hand. Everybody'd stop, pat me on the head, and say, "How you doing, little mayor?" Yeah, I had a wonderful daddy, and when I was about 14, he says, "Son, look. You come from a long line of chronic alcoholics. I'm an alcoholic just waiting for the first drink, and I refuse to take it." He said, "If you do, you'll get away with it for a while, but it'll destroy your life and probably kill you." And he said, "I want you to remember that." And I said, "OK, daddy. I'll give it a serious thought."

I gave it enough thought that that Halloween I went trick-or-treating with my buddy, and we passed a horseshoe of frat houses. Those kids knew who I was. Everybody knew who my daddy was, and one of them frat boys said, "Hey, you ever had a drink?" And I said, "No, I hadn't." He said, "Now, you drink this. It's going to burn, but you're going to like this." I never felt so good in my life. As long as I had alcohol in my system, I was what I always wanted to be, a self-confident, good-looking, witty human being, and it worked very well for 40-some more years of my life.

David Wright: Must take a lot of self-discipline to turn around.

Eddie Lanier: Well, it took more than that. I had just been released for my 28th treatment for alcoholism. The doctor told me when I left, said, "I'll give you two weeks, and then I'll read your name in the obituaries." So I went to cemetery where my mother and daddy were buried and let them know that I'm sober. Ain't going to die this way. So then I came on down to a place I knew where there was an exit ramp where cars come around. I held a sign there, and that's where I met you. Every time you came by, you'd stick out a $2 bill and a can of tuna fish.

And it was New Year's eve and I had nowhere to go. Couldn't drink, everybody's partying, and you walked on over and said, "Remember me?" I said, "Yeah, you're the $2-bill man." You said, "I'm going to take you home with me for a New Year's eve party. How would you like that?" I said, "I don't think that would work, sir. You got a wife? She's going to have a lot to say to you about bringing a homeless, smelly, old man home with you." You said, "My wife will receive you well." I went to your home and had a shower, and you gave me some clean clothes. And we sit down at the table, and I told you some stories about who I really was and who my daddy was. There was a lot more to me than you might imagine.

David Wright: I hope I was a little bit of a help along your path.

Eddie Lanier: Well, you know, David, without your kindness and of your family and all, I don't know if I would say I'd have gone back drinking again, but I say, it would've been rough.

There may be small errors in this transcript.

This brief and lovely story was created as part of StoryCorps and animated by The Rauch Brothers. Hear a moving follow-up story from StoryCorps.

Aug 30, 2014

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