The Pip squeak

I was driving to work in the early morning. The car’s headlamps struggled to illuminate the country road as its wound its way past scattered fields and dormant churches. It funny how the road bends but the twin beams of light emanating from my car don’t. As these beams of light zig-zag over barns and surprised animals, sleeping willows and picket fences I start to see the first raindrops gracing my windshield, first lazily and then more affirmatively as if announcing their own arrival. All the while as my car and I bob and weave over low-water crossings and by red barns we are watched by a silent canopy of low-hanging fog that isn’t sure if it wants to touch the earth or just us watch from afar.
It feels like we are alone, my car and I but its Monday morning and seven and a half hours past midnight. If I look ahead of me there are cars and when I look behind there are cars. An unintended convoy, we snake through the country under the cover of the overhanging fog. As I round the familiar bend past the flashing red light I come up to a bus stop on the side of the road. This is the sort of neighborhood bus-stop that only the locals know. No cubicle or shelter, just a worn out patch of dirt by the side of the road earmarked by the boots and heels of previous commuters. The kind of bus-stop where shoes don’t escape picking up the local mix of sand and gravel, a forensic proof of being a rider at this stop. In the gentle rain I spot a couple of figures waiting for the bus. One appears to be standing erect in defiance of the raindrops and the other is hunching against them. In a second we sweep by and I instinctively look in the rear view mirror for their bus. I don’t see a bus, but of course my vision is stymied by the last bend in the road. I would like to offer a ride but its too late. I am several hundred yards down road and moving further away as the rising guilt at my inaction and of not offering to assist them hits me. A great many thoughts all rush simultaneously into the foyer of my mind. I am fortunate to be in a nice car, protected from the elements on this wintery January morning, so perhaps I should be kind enough to share it with those folks, says one. Its too late cries another, they are a half mile behind and its a lot of work to get back there. Besides, cries his accomplice, they are probably not going to hitch a ride with you, a stranger! Somewhere back behind the crowd in the foyer is the voice of my wife. Are you stupid she cries? Actually yes you are stupid, we’ve established that, so I’m telling you to keep driving and not to get all soft-hearted. You never know what trouble it lands you in! For once my mother agrees with her. Those people are dangerous she wails, they could be carrying guns and knives…and why would decent people be hanging outside at this dark hour in the rain? Get away from them as fast as you can…if you want to do a good deed, deliver a few cans of food to the food pantry! Then someone speaks up in a little pip squeak voice. They are likely poor folk, going to their jobs many miles away, it says. And they are going to be drenched even before they start. Did you see raincoats on them? Did you? Nooooooo, you didn’t, the voice insists. Well, what does that mean? It means they will get sick and not be able to get to their minimum wage jobs, not be able to pay their rents and not be able to go to the doctor because dammit they are taking away Obamacare. Oh man, you and your car have to turn the frick around and give them a ride. Look even the rain is getting stronger. Is this what your morality says, is this what you teach in Sunday school…ignore their pain and ride on! What a faker! And the chorus continues… there is no shortage of voices and opinions… my kids, my grandparents, my friends, the police chief, my neighbors… everyone is in on this. 
The downpour is now turning into a deluge and moment is passing. With one monumental effort the pip squeak reaches out through the crowd and yanks the wheel right into a side street so the noisy chorus can calm down. We stop for a moment, I take in a deep breath and make a u-turn. Pip squeak and I are now practicing the verbal offer I will make to the commuters at the bus stop. I clear the seat beside me with one hand, sweeping the audio books from the library off the seat and onto the floor. My eyes sweep across the road, looking for my future passengers while my right hand gropes for a weapon just in case. Even as I drive past the bus stop in the wrong direction it finds the comforting handle of the windshield ice-scraper. Looking closely I notice they are standing about six feet apart and both have hoodies pulled over their heads. More details: one is black and one is white and both look like women. Another u-turn back at the red-flashing light and I am now approaching them like an inbound flight approaching its jetway. Gingerly, but with a sense of purpose. I notice with annoyance that a car is tailing me but I don’t care. I am now fully committed. I roll down the window, slow the car down to a crawl and through the rain I shout-out as warmly and loudly as I can, Can i give you a ride?
They look at me
no, they study me
then those voices come clamoring into the foyers of their minds! I can see them all in the background past the shutters to their wide, evaluating eyes. Then they turn toward me, look suspiciously, maybe even angrily, turn up their chins and noses and respond,
No thanks! We are fine. 
…and turn away.

Comments

  1. You did your part. You fought your nafs and won.

    ReplyDelete

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