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Eric Bergeson: An angel in Billings, Mont.

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The trek from California through the mountain states towards home landed me in Billings, Mont., mid-day last week.

I stopped for a quick bite to eat, then ordered a souped-up coffee at a local cafe, coffee which was intended to amp me up enough to reach Bismarck, N.D.

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The oil rush means hotels between Billings and Bismarck are expensive and scarce, so I brought my laptop into the cafe in Billings and rented a room in Bismarck online.

Feeling quite smug about my planning and organizational skills, I grabbed my coffee, threw my jacket in the back seat of the car and headed down the interstate, determined to make quick work of the 411 mile trip.

Montana traffic moves at a steady 80 mph, and with the tunes blaring and a double shot of caffeine coursing through my veins, I felt in the driver’s seat in more way than one.

Then my cell phone rang. It was my brother, back home in Minnesota.

“Some woman just called from Billings,” he said. “She says she has your laptop.”

Oh, for stupid. I had left my laptop at the coffee shop!

Turning around to go back to get it would mean getting into Bismarck an hour later. Uff da. Could the woman mail it?

Then I thought, it’s just an hour, I have nothing better to do. I took down the woman’s number, which I assumed was that of the coffee shop, declared myself an “authorized vehicle,” and made U-turn at one of those crossings for authorized vehicles only.

Zooming back towards Billings, the phone rang. It was the woman from Billings. She had my laptop and was willing to meet me outside of town.

I said, “Are you going to have to take off work at the coffee shop?”

“What coffee shop?” she replied, confused.

“Well, where did you find my computer?” I asked.

“In the gutter on the street in front of Wal-mart,” she said.

Wow. I was even more stupid than I thought.

Then my memory returned. I had left the laptop, a razor-thin McBook Air, on the hood of my car. Silver in color, the computer apparently blended in so well that I didn’t see it as I drove the first couple of blocks.

Eventually, it fell off the hood. How I missed seeing or hearing it is beyond me. Was I putting on my seatbelt? Was I turning up the tunes? I’ll never know.

The woman, named Kristen, whom I have dubbed the “Angel of Billings,” saw the laptop on the street, opened it, found my name, took a picture of the computer, posted it on Facebook assuming that I was from Billings and that somebody might know me, and then undertook an internet search to find how she might find me.

She saw that a person by my name was associated with a nursery in northwestern Minnesota, and called that nursery.

Once we connected, she offered to come out meet me at the Flying J truck stop on the edge of town, saving me twenty miles.

Was I glad I had turned around! I wanted to meet this person who had gone so far out of her way yet sounded as if it was no big deal.

When I pulled into the Flying J, there stood Kirsten, a tiny thing with fashionable glasses, in sweats. She had been apparently working out.

Only 23 years old and working retail, Kirsten didn’t want to take anything for her kindness, but I said take it and hand it out to the bums if you feel guilty.

Technology being what it is today, we were friends on Facebook by the time departed from the parking lot.

According to her Facebook profile, Kirstin is also a “bikini athlete.” That is, she lifts weights and conditions her body to enter bikini contests.

As far as I am concerned, Kirsten is already a champion, bikini or not!

When I left the parking lot, I was sky high. What a wonderful kid! What a great boost in my faith in humanity!

As you can imagine, I was in a far better mood than I was before I found out my computer had been found in a gutter.

The computer had a dent, which I fixed with a plier. Otherwise, it is fine.

Oh, the hassle Kristen saved me with her act of kindness.

The trip to Bismarck flew by. It was a foggy night-time as I passed through the southern edge of the Bakken Oil field. Flares lit up the sky. Drilling rigs glowed with klieg lights. Dickinson bustled, even at 10 p.m.

It looked like Christmas out there on the prairie. I felt like it was Christmas to me, too, thanks to the Angel from Billings.

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