Lend a helping hand… from a distance, of course

On my way home tonight, tired, I pulled up to a stoplight and waved with a shake of my head to a young guy slightly shaking a small red gas can toward me in an almost greeting. As I come to a full stop, I hear him say aloud, “I’m not even asking for any money.”

I crack the passenger window – automatic in my just-picked-up new car!!! – a bit and ask him for what he is asking. He tells me he just needs a ride, his bike was towed, and he’s been trying to get help for hours.

I wasn’t sure about the scenario… I’ve always ridden with the tow truck when having a vehicle towed. Perhaps he parked illegally and had the bike towed.

“Where are you needing to go?” I ask him.

“Just 45 and the beltway,” he says, as though that isn’t a half-hour drive away by highway.

“North or south?”

“South.”

Yup. Half an hour. And in the opposite direction of my home.

I nyackered, and don’t want to be driving for another hour. He is also looking rather sweaty and I just picked up this brand new car. I don’t exactly want a sweaty person in it ever, but especially not at this moment. Not that that would be my reason to deny helping him, but it is a factor. Really, I don’t want to spend half an hour in any car with this unknown kid/guy. His desperation makes his space a little rough and hard to read.

“I’d even give you money like an Über… that’s really all I need.” He has kept talking, but I’ve not been paying full attention to his words.

“What kind of bike do you have?”

“A Suzuki,” he says.

“Yeah, but what kind?”

He tells me some numbers… perhaps a 300 something?… I drive a 300cc Vespa…, so that isn’t a very hefty bike, if that’s what he said… No, he didn’t say 300, but I don’t know what he said…

I didn’t really listen to his words – just that they were the right kind of words, naming an actual type of motorcycle, and hey had no hesitation to them. They were simply a statement in response to a question. And that’s what I wanted.

The light had turned green.

“Shit,” I say, and I pause just a moment before saying, “I’ll meet you at the gas station.” I point as I say this to the gas station on the corner, through the intersection where I was stopped. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to do, but I would figure it out without the pressure of a green light and cars waiting behind me.

Seconds later, as I pulled into the lot, I knew I would get him an Über. I didn’t really want to be alone with him – after all, I was then parking in a specifically lighted area next to the building of the gas station, because his vibe was just enough off that I wanted to stay in the light and visible with him around – and I had the added aspects of exhaustion and keeping the car clean.

When he made it over to me, I was leaning on the hood of my car, pulling up Über on my phone. I knew there was a reason I kept this app on my phone, and even logged it back in. Thank you, Universe, World, and God for that.

I pulled up where he wanted to go – and yes, it was 27 minutes away – and ordered a car for him. Why didn’t he just order one himself? He apparently left his phone in his bike. The bike whose carburetor had blown, requiring it to be towed. He had just grabbed his stuff out of the bike in a hurry and let it go, not realizing until afterward that his phone was still with it.

He looked disheveled enough and carried the right odd mixture of bags for this to be believable. Trust me, when I have unexpectedly had to stop somewhere while on my bike (Vespa), I have definitely walked inside with the oddest-looking set of “baggage”.

I didn’t see a helmet with him, but I didn’t want to find out that he rode without one, and a small part of me didn’t want to tear apart his story enough to disprove it. His desperation to get home was real, and that, apparently, was enough for me. Whether his story was true or not, I appreciated his effort in making it all up and having details enough to go with it. Though, in full frankness, he did not strike me as someone to come up with much backstory detail when trying to pull a fast one on somebody. I mean no offense by that statement. Most people wouldn’t come up with much backstory in a scenario ahead of time. So, I was hoping he was in the most people category, and so was just genuinely telling the truth (or, at least, his version of it). But, just in case, I didn’t want to find out that he wasn’t. So, I didn’t ask about the helmet, nor did I ask any further questions. I knew what I needed to know: He needed help, and he was grateful to have found it.

He said he had been there for hours, trying to get help from somebody. Obviously that was to no avail until I stopped for him. I didn’t mention to him that he was in the wrong neighborhood for looking as he did, and expecting someone to pick him up and drove him half an hour away… or anywhere at all. This was a Mercedes and Tesla and Range Rover neighborhood around us right now. They don’t give people rides off the side of the road. But they might give you a dollar or few just for standing there.

If I hadn’t picked up the new car, and had been in my old one, it would have made sense that I had stopped. I in my crappy-looking 2002 Hyundai, with duct tape and peeled paint all over the place, crank windows, and only three door handles that work… it would have been obvious that I didn’t belong in that neighborhood’s genre of people, had I been in that car. But I had just picked up the new one, the one I am leasing, and so I almost seemed to fit into the crowd of shiny expensive cars all around. Nonetheless, I was not one of them, and the fact that I stopped and invested my time (and money) into this kid showed as much (to me, anyway).

I was proud of the fact that I had grown up in that neighborhood, yet was the one who was willing to stop to help, to give my time to someone in need, in a sudden desperate situation. Even though I didn’t wasn’t to mess with it, I found myself doing it anyway, because it just felt necessary for this poor kid’s sake.

I think he was in college, at the University of Houston, because he was wearing a UofH mask and had something else I don’t specifically recall that made him seem like a student there. He also had the physical look and mental space of a college student, or someone very near that age, anyway. He spoke on the younger side of life, not as a college graduate. I think he thought I was the same age, and not over half as much more. But that was okay.

He shared of his concern that Coronavirus was keeping people away, scared to help him. Had my life changed much because of the virus? I told him an extremely brief version of my running incident the other week, and how the people were too afraid to help me as I lay in the road. But, otherwise, my life wasn’t all that different than pre-Coronavirus.

He told me about his name on Facebook while we waited for the car, and I smiled at the genuine sweetness. He was clearly grateful, and he was relieved beyond explanation. There was no denying that.

As he was getting into the Über, he reminded me to ‘”send that request”. I smiled and said comfortably that I probably wouldn’t. He smiled back and said, “Okay,” not so much disappointed as understanding of my honesty and my lack of desire to send him a friend request on Facebook.

Man sieht sich immer zweimal im Leben.

If it is meant to be, our paths will cross again at some point, at least once more.

Twenty-nine minutes later, after I’d gotten home and was already getting ready for bed, about to shower, I received the notification that my Über ride was completed. He had been dropped off right by a gas station that is at the entrance to a neighborhood, and not just at the mall, as he had told me to input for the ride. It was only a few streets from the mall, but on the other side of the highway. I think he probably lives in the neighborhood there, and the driver offered to take him more to where he was going than just the mall as a whole, and on the opposite side of the highway. I was glad to see that. And relieved.

What an adventure, eh? And all I did was go home, and be nice along the way. It cost me only a few minutes of my time and $29.93. Whatever the guy’s real story, I was glad to have been able to help him get where he needed to be. Yes, that is a lot more money to me than to most people. But it felt right and worth it to pay for this kid’s ride home. For whatever reason, he was desperate and needed it. And I had it, and wasn’t desperate.

“Just pay it forward, okay?” He seemed slightly confused, probably thinking I meant actual money for the Über driver. “Do something to help someone else now.” And he understood, both that I wasn’t expecting him to pay me or the driver anything, and that I wanted him to pay forward the kindness.

And that felt right.

So, I’ll see ya when I see ya, Alfred. I hope you get yourself more organized and at ease by then than you were tonight, and I wish you all the best going forward.

Prayers of Gratitude

I have been thinking lately more and more about prayers of gratitude.

In my daily e-mails, one mentioned a short while back how we are always quick to flood the universe with our prayers in times of need – Oh, please help me with this – but that we often miss out on the opportunity to express prayers of gratitude – Thank you for the flowers, the air, the people around me…, for my life, my health, my home, my hearing…, for that act of kindness shown to me, for my ability to show love just now, for my ability to accept love from myself And others

And so, I have been somewhat focusing on prayers of gratitude lately.

Tonight, as I drive myself the remainder of my journey home, I was delighted and relieved that my prayers were clear and of gratitude:

Thank you for showing me safely but clearly to trust myself.

Thank you for putting someone behind me who cares so much and is helping to take care of me.

Thank you for keeping me safe.

Thank you for putting someone behind me who stopped and was paying attention.

Thank you for helping me do what needed to be done.

Thank you for keeping us both – the bike and me – safe, despite our scratches.

Thank you that we received only scratches.

Thank you for the love that is following me right now.

Thank you for letting this terrifying event be in such safe, love-filled circumstances.

Thank you for keeping me alive and well, both for my sake, and for hers.

And for those in my life.

Thank you for my life.

There likely were others in there, too, but that was the main flow of my thoughts (along with the occasional, Man that was ….::hefty-shaky exhale…).

I am grateful for the angel who was driving behind me, and who, though she repeatedly expressed that she didn’t know what to do to help, did exactly what was needed to help – and, aside from all of the conscious efforts to help, her attentiveness quite definitely assured my safety.

Had she not been the one behind me, someone paying attention, I might not be here right now… it was a simple and small accident, but her attentiveness kept it so.

Thank you, God.

And thank you, R.

P.S. All my gear took perfect care of me – I rolled probably three times, without ever touching anything with my head, and lots of parts of me hurt right now, but my skin looks impeccable, because my clothes did exactly what they were worn to do… (minus one tiny spot that, through the jeans, still broke the skin and bled a little bit, but it is a tiny spot that looks more like I tripped and scraped my knee than that I fell around 30-35mph and went rolling across the road)…

P.P.S. Icing has been helping with pain and swelling, and the hot shower just now helped immensely with the pain everywhere.

P.P.P.S. And no, I was not on my phone – not at all… I am just glad that the girl behind me was not on her phone.

Post-a-day 2019

the wrong side of the road…?

I have been three days riding my bike (bicycle) now, and I still am not fully accustomed to it.  A car was a reasonably easy adjustment, because the driver seat is on the opposite side of the car, making it significantly easier just to flip everything for the road.  I also have spent hours upon hours driving in the US, and only a handful of days doing it in Japan.  Bicycling, however, is a rather different story.

I spent a good number of days riding my bike part of the way to work at my last US job, and I used my bicycle for a good amount of my getting around town (combined with the local busses).  But that in no way adds up to how much I have driven in Houston.  In fact, I think it is quite likely that I actually spent more time riding my bike on the roads in Japan than I ever have in Houston.  I think I’ve spent more calendar days using a bicycle on the roads in the US – I’m saying “on the roads”, because I know I have spent more time and more calendar days using a bicycle in the US than in any other country, but not necessarily as an alternative to a car as a means of transportation – than in Japan, but the days I spend riding in Japan included a LOT of road time every time I went to and from work.

All that said, despite however terribly it may have been said, I have spent a lot of time riding my bicycle on the left side of the road, following traffic in Japan this past year.  This means that I kind of have a really strong habit of getting to the left side of the road whenever I ride.  I have consciously pushed to the right these past few days, but it has been tough.  Especially when there are no moving cars around, I really struggle.  I find myself already going to the left side, before it clicks that that’s the wrong side here.  (Hey, I’m glad it does click, though, and fast!)

As I approached a road with a huge median in it yesterday morning, and there were no visible moving cars on the nearer side of it, I suddenly discovered how much my instincts have been “messed with”, so to speak.  I truly had no idea which way to check for traffic, as I approached the road (I was on a path perpendicular to the road.).  Even though it seemed like no cars were around, I went ahead and stopped at the edge, because I wanted to figure this out.  After a handful of seconds, during which I get quite silly and out of place, a car came along on the far side of the road, the opposite side of the median from me.  It was coming from the right.  Unfortunately, that didn’t have anything click for me – there was no Aha! moment for me, and I was disappointed.  However, I am smart, and so I immediately deduced that cars must come from the left on the side by me, if they’re coming from the right on the far side of the road.  I was just a bit bummed that I was having to deduce, instead of just suddenly remembering and knowing.

On a handful of other occasions, – possibly two or three handfuls, actually – I have found myself heading to the left side of the bike trail or the road, but it is always under the same circumstances: I am alone, and I am turning.  So, if I keep that in mind, and just focus whenever I’m about to turn, I’ll be in good shape in no time.  (As if I haven’t been thinking this all week already…)

Anyway, just thought I’d share all of that, because it’s kind of fun (to me, anyway).

Post-a-day 2017

a Turn in the Road instead

Something I have learned about Japan is that roads that appear to be turning into a dead-end almost never are at their ends.  That is, they are all false dead-ends.  If you keep going on the road, almost as if magic were at play, a continuation of the road appears just past that house or those bushes – things only appear to be ending, when the road merely has turned (and quite sneakily in my opinion).

Some days, I wonder if this is a sort of big picture lesson for me to learn.  We always talk of life as a road or a path.  Perhaps these Japanese roads are a new take on the road of life, the path we are taking, which seems to be coming to a dead-end…  and, perhaps not.  Nonetheless, I find myself wondering often about it, because it is such an odd thing to have discovered, I feel.  🙂

 

Post-a-day 2017