It was a long day at work today.
It started out early, because I woke up at 4:44am for no good reason. I didn’t have to be at work until 9am, and didn’t have to leave until after 8am to get there, but just the same, I woke up and poked around a bit on my phone until the cat drove me back under the covers. (She thinks she’s being nice to me and all I’m doing is hiding from those sharp little claws of hers.)
When I rolled over and fell asleep, it was more like 5:30am, so when the alarm and the light finally woke me up again, it was a lot closer to 8am and I was suddenly in a hurry. So much so that I remembered the coffee and the dry Kix/Cocoa Puffs (don’t judge me!) but I forgot to feed the cats on the way out the door.
And that was just the start.
The ticketing system we use was on the fritz. The back end worked fine, but the front end was down, and it was a gross day, the last performances of the current show, so we were swamped with phone calls and folks buying tickets at the door. No time to sit down or eat lunch until it was too late to justify getting lunch at all.
Voicemail recording was a problem because my work machine is on the finicky side of functionality. Birthday party was a multi-level complicated mess. Boss was on the high end side of “I’m not listening well so I’m going to use small words because you’re obviously not listening to me” and was finishing all my sentences with the wrong words.
So yeah, a day.
In the middle of all that, I got a friend to come put food in the cat bowls, and that was enough to keep me going till I finished the rest of the work I needed to get done before I left for the weekend.
Which means if anything else had happened, I would have been in the right place at the wrong time.
I was almost home, driving in the on-again, off-again rain, when I saw the SUV pulled off to the side, and a guy opening and closing doors looking for something. I rolled down my window and asked him if he needed help. He said “Yes.”
Now, it’s dark and wet, and I’m tired, but in this area, being stuck in a broken down car is potential grounds for all sorts of bad stuff, and I’m nervous enough about things happening around the world in general that I’m not willing to just let it go. So, I tell the guy (in his twenties, maybe?) to stay there while I drive around.
Get this: I’m a pudgy, graying, middle aged chick in a floral skirt and a dorky REI raincoat, in a neighborhood where folks generally drive on by when something’s wrong, and wait for other folks to fix problems. Especially problems that seem to belong to people who look different from the people inside the car.
But that hasn’t stopped me before. I assessed the situation and went to work.
Turns out his battery was dead. He was getting ready to WALK to the local auto store, leaving his dead car in the rain, in a neighborhood where that can get you into trouble if the cops are in a mood or someone’s not paying enough attention. Pedestrians have died around here by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I thought I had an emergency triangle in the car (I didn’t), but I found a reflective orange emergency belt and decided that was better than nothing. We tied it to the back of the SUV and I drove this guy down to the auto place, where I waited for him to get the new battery. While he was inside, the sky opened up and it poured buckets for at least 10 minutes. I sat and checked FB while I waited.
He came back out, thanked me, and we headed back before anyone noticed anything. I pulled in behind his dead SUV, leaving a couple of car lengths and my flashers, so there’d be enough space if someone was dumb in the rain.
The downpour caught up with us, so while he put the new battery in the car, I held an umbrella overhead. I saw folks drive by who glanced over to us. Not one person bothered to check in and see if we needed help.
Eventually, he started the SUV and I got my safety belt back from him. He thanked me and I drove off to get dinner.
At a minimum, the guy would have been soaked right through if he’d had to walk that distance both ways, bogged down with a car battery in either direction. It would have been 40 minutes each way, given the weather.
Top it off, even with the clothing he was wearing (not terribly light), his skin was dark enough that with reduced visibility, he was likely invisible and thus a perfect target for a pedestrian accident. White sneakers don’t cut it. And you get in trouble around here if you abandon your vehicle, even if there’s good reason to do so. Happened to me a few years back. I got a warning when the cop found my car without me in it. I suspect he wouldn’t have been so lucky.
I was certain I was safe making the offer of a lift. It didn’t take more than a couple of seconds to work that out. And I didn’t ask for anything in return, either. Not even to pay it forward. I figure he can work that out for himself.
In fact, in daylight I might or might not have stopped, if the weather had been decent. But it seems to me that if we want to call ourselves human, we need to give our fellow travelers the benefit of the doubt. Especially when we can act to protect the lives of folks who aren’t as safe as we are, by virtue of privilege.
I haven’t worn my safety pin flag in months, and he didn’t know me from Eve, but when the need expresses itself, offering assistance is important. You don’t have to be a parent to know when to help someone in need.
I’m reasonably sure that he was young enough to be my kid, and frankly that covers a lot more people than it used to.
Shame on all those people who failed to roll their windows down and ask if we needed help.
Glad I was there when I needed to be. And now it’s time to feed the cats.