Saturday, April 16, 2011

Good grief...

Yesterday morning started normal. Did my bicycle ride, a few burpees, made lunch and took the Softail to work.

As I was riding up Bob Hope Drive to Alameda, I see a long line of cars waiting to turn right. Which happened to be the direction I wanted to go. DAMMIT. I thought to myself. Some asshole is asleep at the wheel and is holding up traffic. ASSHOLE. Since I myself have assholish tendencies, I rode the bike up the left turn lane and turned right onto Alameda. As I whooshed by, I see what the hold up is that's creating this conga line of non-movement and increasingly loud car horn cacophony.

A midsize VW car is in the middle of the lane, hazard lights on. Obviously it died while making the turn. The driver of the car was standing on the sidewalk corner, cell phone in hand, visibly upset at how her morning was progressing. Or not progressing, as the case may be. She was small, petite, brunette, and not up to the task of being an on-site mechanic to figure out what's wrong with her car.

The thing that got me about the whole situation was that there were at least ten cars sitting behind her car. Gawd knows how many other people who were making a left turn and could see that this tiny woman was in distress. But no one stopped. No one got out of their own little metal cave to ask if she needed help. No one called AAA or the police. They just sat and honked their fucking horns.


And now we take a break from yesterday's adventure to tell another quick story:

Something similar happened to my sister last month. She had been running errands on a fine Saturday afternoon, and as she was leaving a grocery store parking lot, a sensor in her car decided to die just as she was about to turn out of the parking lot. Again, no one stopped, no one asked if she needed help, no one did anything except honk their horns and eventually worked their way around her car to go on their way. She called me in a panic, and I asked her calmly if she had called AAA yet. She thought for a moment, said she thought she still had time on her extended warranty from her car company, and would call them. As she did that, I put on my shoes and drove over to where she was at. On the way I spotted some Girl Scouts selling cookies in front of their house, so I got two boxes of Thin Mints(one for me, one for my sister), and continued on my way.

By the time I got to where my sister was, she was a little more calm, having figured out that she couldn't use her extended warranty, and so had called AAA in the meantime. I started to help push her car out of the grocery store driveway back into the lot. An old man who happened to be wandering by stopped and helped us, and I think he was kinda-sorta hitting on me. Or he was just a touchy-feely type of guy. Either way, he got $20 from my very relieved sister for helping out. About ten minutes after that the AAA guy came along and we managed to load my sister's car up and get it to a local dealer just as they were closing for the day. Everything turned out OK, because my sister got some help instead of a ration of shit from asshole strangers.

Back to yesterday's story.

With my sister's car mishap fresh in my mind, I immediately pulled over to the side of Alameda as I passed the petite woman and her car trouble. As I stomped over to where she was standing, she was yelling back at the asshats who were still sitting in their cars honking their horns. I said, HEY! and she immediately turned around. Do you want me to help you push your car to the side of the road? I ask. YES! PLEASE! she cried. OK, put your car into neutral and you steer it over while I push. I replied.

This is the part where things get hilarious. I've pushed cars before, obviously. But usually with a little help. The woman puts her car into neutral and gets in the car. Oh, jeez! Ah well, might as well give it a try. What do I have to lose, except maybe a little pride?

I start to push. Nothing happens. I keep pushing. Nothing. Oh shit! I start to think. Some fuckwad starts honking their damn horn. I turn around and gave them the GLARE OF DEATH. What kind of mindless idiot who can see that the car needs to be pushed out of the way and sees a WOMAN doing it would DARE honk their fucking horn instead of getting their lazy ass out of their own car and helping?! Fucking coward!

The GLARE OF DEATH worked, and apparently the added adrenaline rush from the honking jerkface got me to slowly push the car forward. In about three minutes the car gained momentum and was moved to the side of the road, perfectly parked behind my motorcycle and out of harm's way.

I did what I did not because I think I'm better than anyone else. But based on these people's reaction to a situation, I've decided I'm certainly no worse than anyone else. I'm not a superhero; I did what I did because I've been in that situation and every little bit of help helps me deal with it so that I get out of everyone's hair and things can go back to normal. I did what I did because I just wanted to get to work on time, but the broken car was preventing that. So I helped move the car out of the way so that everyone else could go about their day while the woman could deal with calling for help in relative safety. I did what I did because I saw a situation that needed to be fixed, and it wasn't a big deal to fix it. Yet no one else felt they could be bothered to help fix it. Instead they sat and bitched about it.

Part of it is human nature, to be sure. But it also PISSED ME THE HELL OFF that we as a society seem to have gotten to such a point where we're too mentally paralyzed to help ourselves and fix things for ourselves even when we have the direct impact to do so. Even when there's someone who obviously needs just a little boost, no one would give them one. Even if that boost would benefit themselves as well as the person who directly needs that boost. What will it take to get people off their asses? I don't know.

I tell this story not to stroke my own ego, but to remind everyone to help fix the problems of life, not be part of them. We all have shit going on, but sometimes just a little gesture can help someone else get through a tough day as well as helping oneself along. I wish more people would do that.


Burns! said...

Sadly, most people are assholes. Sometimes I figure they must be spiteful assholes, because they won't help someone else even if it benefits themselves.

Clearly, you are not one of those assholes.

RedDiabla said...

Yeah, I'm just a garden-variety asshole. :D

Ernessa T. Carter said...

I love Cali infinitely better that STL for many reasons, but this isn't one of them. About three months after I moved here, my $600 beater car just died in the middle of the road. I didn't have AAA, and it took 30 minutes for someone to get out of his car and help me get it to a parking lot 20 feet away as opposed to just blaring their car horn as they switched lanes to get past me. And that only happen b/c I got so frustrated that I physically got in the road and aggressively flagged someone down to help me. In STL it would have taken 30 seconds. I know b/c this happened to my mom a couple of times when my father wasn't around, and there were never any shortage of people to come around and help.

That day frazzled me to the bone and I now have a rule against honking when traffic isn't moving. I always figure that either something's wrong that I can't see or there's an ambulance that I can't hear coming along. Often it's just some jerk text messaging, who's missed the light, but even then, I don't think it's worth honking my horn, that's how much PTSD I have left from that day.

So really, I just want to thank you on behalf of that woman for stopping. I don't think most people think that way. Often it's just, "I need to get here and this person is the enemy for preventing that." But if you're really late and your excuse is "Sorry, this poor woman broke down in front of me, and I had to stop to help her push her car to the side of the road" as opposed to, "Some idiot broke down in front of me and I was stuck there forever" ... well, you can see that it's a win-win for everyone if you get out and help.

justdeb said...

I agree most people are indeed assholes. However, life is also full of amazingly helpful people who go out of their way to be kind. I too have gotten out of the car to help push a car off the road while big grumpy men honk their horns. It sucks. Come to think of it, there once was a time that if you were stranded police officers would stop to offer assistance. Even that has gone away. Now they just ticket you. I commend you. Not because you stopped to help her. But because you glared the shit out of that poor bastard. And you know he had to have told others that day about this crazy mad as fuck woman who shut him up with just a glare. Kudos.