Friday, April 18, 2008

Cup of coffee and a small reality adjustment - $92

This morning I decided to swing by a convenience store on my way to work for a cup of coffee. Pulled into the parking lot - no problem. Got my 32 oz. coffee with exactly three doses of Irish Cream flavoring and three doses of creamer (have I mentioned I'm OCD yet?) - no problem. Paid for my $1.28 coffee with cold hard US currency - no problem. Got back to my truck, put my key in the ignition and started it up to get back on the road to work - problem.

That problem mostly centered on the fact that my truck wouldn't start. In fact, it didn't even turn over once. To quote the terrorist cameraman in True Lies, "Batteraziz!"

My battery was absolutely, totally, and completely dead.

Thank goodness I keep those jumper cables I got for Christmas seven years ago in my truck! Now if I can just find a Good Samaritan to help get a charge into my battery...

To the younger, clean-shaven man in the spotless F250:
"Excuse me, sir, can yo... Oh, you don't have time right now? Sorry to bother you."

To the woman in the Dodge Durango:
"Pardon me, Ma'am, but could you hel... You're in a hurry? Maybe next time, then, ok?"

To the middle-aged man in the black Ford Explorer:
"Good morning, sir, I was wonder... You have to pick someone up in a few minutes? Hey, not a problem. Thanks, anyway."

Can you believe I tried to ask five different people for a jump start and I didn't even get to the point of telling them what I needed help with before they told me they couldn't help? That really bummed me out!

Was it me? Having showered this morning, I knew I didn’t smell. I tried to be polite, like my mamma taught me, so it didn’t have to do with me being rude. Because of guests in our office this morning, I was dressed business casual, so I didn’t think I looked too scary…

Maybe I was just asking the wrong people? Everyone I’d approached so far had been nicely dressed, wearing “office” clothes, driving well-kept vehicles… I expected the complete opposite response from what I got!

As I started a dejected walk back to my truck to call a tow truck for a jump, an unshaven guy in a beat-up old Ford with tattoos on his arms pulled up and jumped out of his truck. He started to go into the store, but I guess he saw the look on my face, because he asked, “Need some help?” I said I just needed a jump-start for my dead battery. He said, “Sure, I can do that. You got jumper cables?”

Two minutes later, my truck was running smoothly, he was on his way, and I was on mine. My way, of course, was straight to the auto parts store (where I had to sit for 15 minutes, waiting for the store to open) to get a new battery.

That gave me plenty of time to think about what had just happened. I was very disturbed by the five automatic responses to not help a stranger in need. It wasn’t that they couldn’t help because they didn’t have jumper cables (which I had) or a big enough battery (I only asked people with larger trucks). Honestly, they didn’t even know I had a battery problem! They all declined to help before I got to that part of my question!

I wonder if any of them, at any point in the day, will even think back to this morning and wonder about the guy who needed help. Will they second-guess their immediate response to NOT get involved and NOT help someone in need? Will it bother them at all? Sadly, I suspect it won’t weigh heavily upon their souls.

In full introspection, I have to ask myself, have I acted that same way before? Were there times when someone obviously needed aid and I didn’t offer it? I can’t think of any off the top of my head, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. I sure hope it hasn’t. I think I’m a good person. I try to be mindful of situations like that and offer assistance when I can. I will try to be ever-mindful of such situations in the future.

I think what bugged me the most was the automated response to not help before they even knew what I needed. Well, it didn’t really bug me so much as it made me sad… I hope this morning was a fluke, that most people aren’t so unwilling to assist a fellow human being.

Anyway, after 10 minutes at the auto parts store, and a $90.80 charge to my debit card, I was on my way, a cup of coffee in hand and a slight reality adjustment in tow.

(Oh, and a great big thanks to the salt-of-the-earth guy who helped me in my moment of need this morning. I do appreciate it and will be sure to pass on the kindness first chance I get.)


Kari Hultman said...

If you had said you were stopped by the side of the road, their responses would have made more sense. In the paper yesterday, a good samaritan had stopped to help guy in a broken down car on the side of the road only to be punched in the face and robbed.

But in front of a convenience store? I don't get that one.

Marc said...

Sorry for your bad experience -- a similar thing happened to me in a metro parking lot a few years ago. I left my trucks headlights on when I went to work on the train. When I got back it was after dark. Who wants to help out a stranger in the dark nowadays?

Your story is another case of "modern manners" or most people's ability to think only of themselves. It's probably also do to the abuse of "can you help me?" by sales-types, hucksters and shiesters. Is there any way to turn back to calendar to the 50's?