Some days I drive to work. It’s a nice change because I can decide when to leave and when to arrive–more or less, since timing depends on traffic. Sometimes I get stuck behind a bus and have to stop and start which I know annoys most people but not me. Within a block or two it’s possible to pass the bus and I always figure that most other days it’ll be me on the bus, annoying some other driver, but that’s another story.
The other day as I came out of the parking garage I turned right into a long line of cars waiting to move. I could see the green light at the intersection so I couldn’t figure out why everybody’d stopped. Then gradually I could see the cars ahead pull into the left lane and go around a car that was stopped, and I was annoyed. What was the problem? Probably somebody looking at their phone, I thought, oblivious to the traffic around them. Then I moved up into position and I could see the stopped car was an old pickup truck. It wasn’t old in a cool, eccentric way, like an early model Ford or even the truck that Lamont drives around on Sanford & Son. No, this truck was ten or maybe fifteen years old, which is old since newer vehicles aren’t really built to last, and it had been rode hard and put up wet. There were holes in it and large rusty spots and the rear gate was held in place with duct tape. And I saw the driver: white hair, deeply lined face, and he was looking around anxiously.
As soon as I was through the intersection I pulled into a parking lot and stopped. My plan was to go and offer the guy some help, maybe give him a hand schlepping his truck into a spot where it wouldn’t block traffic. Maybe I could give him a lift, or at least help him call someone. Mostly I wanted to help because it was the right thing to do. We were next to the Vanderbilt hospital where he was either an outpatient or visiting someone. I could only hope that medically his news had been good but vehicularly I knew the prognosis wasn’t good. And if there’s one thing a lifetime of reading fairy tales and myths has taught me it’s never to pass up a chance to do a good deed. You never know when the help you extend to a stranger is going to come back around to you and even if it doesn’t, well, like I said, it’s just the right thing to do.
By the time I parked and the light had changed so I could cross the intersection a phalanx of garage security guys had surrounded the truck and they were all helping move it along. The old man stood on the sidewalk talking into a phone. I hurried back to my car before one of the security guys could notice that I was parked in some doctor’s reserved spot and decided to ticket me, although I hoped that if that did happen he’d let me explain the situation and would agree that giving me a free pass in this case was just the right thing to do.