Our friend Robert takes the wheel and drives for a while...
A couple of months ago Joan called me to say she had been diagnosed with colon cancer. She was terrified because both her sisters had already had the disease and though both survived it, she knew that even if she didn’t die, the road to recovery would be very arduous. She had major surgery 8 weeks ago and on Monday, was going in to get her doctor’s assessment and treatment plan. The big question was whether the cancer has pierced the colon wall and spread to other parts of the body. If it hadn’t she would get off “lightly” with just a few rounds of radiation. If it had gone through, it meant chemo. After waiting two and half hours in the waiting room, she got the verdict, chemo. For the next 6 months, chemo.
Shaken, she got in her car and drove home. Along a major thoroughfare north of Toronto, a construction crew had reduced traffic to one lane in each direction. Exactly as she was passing through the squeeze, her car conked out in the 35 degree heat. It was 4:30 PM and there was a lot of traffic behind her. Joan is 71 years old. Almost immediately, cars started honking. Her car’s power was completely dead so the A/C didn’t work, the windows would not go down. She sat in her car and called CAA and was told someone would be there in 45 minutes. Meanwhile she sat in the suffocating heat, while behind her honking, honking. Cars passed her in the opposite lane and honked as they drove by. People wanted to go home. People were not aware.
After 10 minutes, a car came around her and the driver signaled to her asking whether she was in trouble. She nodded. The driver, in his 30s, pulled over, took one look at the sweat-soaked person behind the wheel and told her to go sit in his car while he pushed her car off to the side. Once her car was off the road, she stood under a tree to get out of the sun a little. A man drove out of his office lot and signaled to her. He asked if she was thirsty. She said yes and he drove back into his lot, walked into the building and returned to her with a bottle of water, and a chair. He told her to leave the chair where it was and that he would pick it up the next morning.
By the time the tow truck arrived, the dealership was about to close and the courtesy van was gone for the day but the man behind the counter told her he would be happy to drive her home.
She wept as she told me the incident had renewed her faith in people. I nodded but also realized her story made me uncomfortable. I asked myself, in that situation, late for a client meeting, or to pick up my kid from school, would I be a Good Samaritan, or would I be honking? I admit I am not sure but I don’t have a good feeling. I hate not knowing. Ask yourself, what would you do? Better still what will you do? What will I do?