Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

I'm driving home tonight when I see a man standing on the side of the road next to his car waving jumper cables. I have just a second to make a decision: stop and help or avoid eye contact and keep driving. Now, it's not that I minded helping this guy. I could just hear my mom in the background telling me to keep driving. "He could be planning to abduct you when you get out of the car." Okay, we're on the side of a fairly busy road near a lot of houses in broad daylight. No harm, huh? So, I pull over. Then my skin starts to crawl. I didn't give this enough thought. The man has long stringy hair, really awful teeth, old sweaty clothes, and a crippled hand. I kid you not, the man had a crippled hand. His car was very old and rusty. What have I done? Okay, it's too late to turn back now. I'll just stay in the car. I'll roll down the window a bit and tell him that he's welcome to use my car to jump his, and I'll just stay seated with the doors locked. He tells me that his hood won't stay open, that he has to hold it open. I see that he's not lying, but how do I know he didn't rip the hood-holder-opener (does it have a technical name?) off just for this very set-up? I get out and stay really close to the road, making eye contact with every driver that passes. I hold his hood open while he goes to work attaching the jumper cables. He starts his car, his engine purrs, he removes the cables, and we close our hoods. He thanks me and offers to pay me for my help. I decline and tell him good luck with his car. I get back into my car and drive home safely wondering if I did the right thing. Mike didn't think so when I told him. He said it scared him. Honestly, I was scared too, although it would have been really hard for him to grab me without several people noticing.

I can't shake this off. First of all, I'm completely ashamed that I was so judgemental. I noticed the man's unkempt appearance and shabby car and assumed that he was dangerous. I guess we never completely outgrow the ugly bad guy/handsome hero fairy tales. At least I didn't. Secondly, I watched a whole string of cars drive past this guy without stopping. What if this was my dad or my husband stranded at the side of the road? I mean, he can't help it that he drives a death-mobile, and maybe he was just on his way home from jogging and that's why he was so unpresentable. I just don't know. Maybe this is Jesus Christ Himself standing on the side of the road and growing more and more distraught that no one is willing to help a stranger. But maybe he's dangerous. You just don't know. I still can't decide if I would stop again. If I'm giving advice to a young girl, I say keep driving. Maybe call someone to go help him. But would anyone, really, leave his house to go drive across town and help a stranger that may or may not still need help by the time he go there? I doubt it.

So, don't judge a book by it's cover. Or proceed with caution. I don't know which applies here. Just hope that if you ever have car trouble you're in a BMW and are clean-shaven. It's going to make the decision to help you a lot easier on those of us who still have childish ideas about good and bad guys.

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