Taking Kindness for Weakness
Yesterday at work I saw a guy with an old rickety van broken down on the street. I'm a nice guy and all, so I was ready to go out and give this guy a hand. He looked to be a bit older and people were walking by while he was apparently trying to parallel park his big rickety van while it was in neutral. It looked to be a painstaking process. He was going so slow. I wanted to be the hero. The American that swoops in and saves the day. I'm the guy that sees the world and wants to help it. Go on out there, Jon. Save him!
But did I save him? Of course not. And not because I've become a Swede. No, that's not it at all. I still have a grasp on my friendly, southern, American side. The thing is, I've sworn off all vehicular assistance after this one incident:
A few years back, I was working as a manager for FedEx in New Jersey. Part of my responsibilities was to make sure the drivers weren't leaving customers' packages in risky places. So occasionally, I would have to take a ride out to some of the neighborhoods we serviced and audit the deliveries. Naturally the areas with the most issues of "lost" packages were "hood" areas. Believe me, Jersey has a lot of hood areas.
On this particular day I was in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Thanks to some places I've lived in growing up, I'm not scared when I am in the hood. I live by the mantra "respect where you at". People generally leave you alone if you "respect where you at". However, there is a certain vibe about me when I get in the hood. It's kind of hard to describe, but it's like Spidey senses. My level of awareness goes up. I listen harder. I look people in the eye and give head nods as we assess each other. This is some important stuff. I'm not overly friendly/helpful/talkative, but I'm not threatening or disrespectful. I think I've mastered this mode. Thanks Liberty City (biggest "hood" in Miami). I digress...
I checked on a delivery that the Elizabeth driver made. He was a pro. This wouldn't be difficult. Picture perfect delivery. I went to the house, took my notes and headed back to my car. I got in and checked my paperwork for the next delivery location. Time to move. I looked up and noticed a car stalled in the intersection in front of me. There was a heavy-set, older woman with the car. Oh no, she's broken down in the intersection. I'm a southern gentleman. Let me see if I can help. I got out and went to the woman.
- Hello, I see you've broken down. Can I help you out?
She seemed distraught. I told her I don't know anything about cars, but I can help her out by getting the car out of the intersection. A couple of cars had driven around her and this was dangerous. She thanked me and Jesus. Jesus did not agree to help us push, but he got love anyway. She told me how glad she was that a good, Christian man like myself would show up and help like this. I didn't have the heart to break it to her. I went back to my car and put my hat and jacket on the roof. I still had to look clean later.
I pushed this lady's car through the intersection. I pushed while steering and she gently rested her hand on the back of the car. Thanks lady. I asked if she wanted me to call anybody.
- I ain't got no money for no tow.
Okay. Double negatives can be confusing, but okay. I was kind of lost now. What did she want to do? She pointed to something behind me. I looked.
- I live right there. We could push it there.
- You live there?
- Just down the street, right there.
I made sure to follow her point. Sure I could help her out. I'm a southern gentleman. I pushed towards "right there". After a while I noticed we were getting close to a busy intersection. I also noticed that my car kept getting smaller and smaller with my nice hat and jacket on it. But whatever, I'm doing a good deed. We get to the intersection and I look back at my partner and she's behind me with her hands on her knees as I push HER CAR.
- Make a left!
The fuck?! Make a left? You didn't point around a corner! We have been speaking English the whole time. Not one time did you mention left, corner or turn when you described your home as "right there"! But what do you do now? What would you do? She said right there, so maybe it was "right" around the corner. I waited for the intersection to clear and pushed into my left turn. My partner had caught up by now and she was helping again. I saw a mechanic's shop.
- Should I push it there?
- I ain't got no money for that!
This nice old lady had transformed on me! Then another woman pulled up behind us. She walked up and asked us was there some way she could help. She said she was on her way to a church around the corner and maybe she could do something. I may be saved!
- I ain't got no money!
- Excuse me?
- I ain't got no money! We got this. I live right there. We gone push it right there.
If this lady says "right there" one more time... I was dumbfounded. I just stood there with my jaw dropped as that nice lady became offended and walked away. I cried on the inside a little bit. Drivers looked at me like I was an idiot as they drove around me. What type of idiot pushes a car down a busy street? Who is that big lady walking behind him out of breath? So many questions.
- Make a right!
Another turn? I started hating this woman almost as much as I hated my life. Not to mention the power steering wasn't working, so turning the wheel was an ultimate tricep workout. I saw some guys on a porch. My Spidey senses perked up. I got in character. Right on cue they started pointing and laughing at me. I looked back at my "partner". She was obviously taking a break from being tired. What the hell, lady? I yelled back, "Where to?" I didn't care, I just wanted the porch guys to know that I'm helping an evil lady. I heard them acknowledge it and stop laughing. Three of them ran down to help me. Thanks Liberty City.
We only had a few more houses to go. It went fast when the guys helped out. The only thing that took time was when Hell Lady explained in her satanic voice how we needed to parallel park her car. The guys looked at me wondering how I put up with this. They told me I was a nice guy and then went back to their porch. I told Hell Lady to have a nice day.
- Thank you, baby. I ain't got no money to give you, though!
She told me how refreshing it was to meet a good, Christian young man. Then she walked into her house, which I'm certain is somehow a part of hell. What's that you ask? Did she offer me a glass of water? NO! Not a damn thing. Like I was supposed to do this.
I began my trek back to my car which was 11 street blocks away. That's right. I pushed her car 11 BLOCKS! Then walked my dry mouth back to my car. My hat and jacket were still on the roof of the car, thankfully. I postponed my audit for another day. I was done with Elizabeth. And now I'm done helping people with vehicle breakdowns. Until next time...