The Good Samaritian Traffic Cop

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I went to Maru after the gym, and got some take out sushi for dinner.

On my way out, I see a busted up old minvan sitting in the middle on 2nd street and Washington, like if it was stalled. It sat through the light and the traffic on Washington were going around the minivan - some people honking their horn and people on the sidewalks were starting to gather watching this spectacle in progress.

I was walking south, watching this with detached amusement.

I waited until the east-west light turned green, and was going to cross Washington at 2nd, and noticed that the minivan still didn't move, with westbound traffic going around him. Now this was getting silly and everyone on the streets were just standing there gawking.

There was an elderly man in the front seat of the dirty, damaged minivan and he looked confused and disoriented. Everyone was just watching from the street and cars didn't want to be bothered were going around him. It was a spectacle and no one was doing anything.

Fuck it.

I walked into the middle of the street, waving cars to stop, and walked right up to the minivan. He has his window rolled down, and I said, "Hey, what's wrong?"

The elderly man was wearing a ratty baseball cap, unshaven, and spoke in a light-Spanish accent, "I can't see - the light - the glare...."

I looked down 2nd street and he was right, the sun was setting in the west, and it was hard to see down the street.

"Ok, well I can guide you forward from out here, you can follow me...", I started to say when a cab passed behind me and honked his horn, yelling "USE THE GAS, BUDDY!"

Another Good Samaritian showed up and was on the other side of the car trying to help, but I think it just confused the old man more.

The elderly man was just out of it. He looked around a bit and wouldn't move the car.

"Why don't you turn down Washington, make a left here, and the sun won't be in your eyes...", I suggested.

"No, I got it. I got it.", he stammered. The car still didn't move.

Finally I had enough, and knew that being gentle wasn't going to work here.

With a bit more force in my voice, I said, "LET'S GO! MOVE IT!", and I spun my arm like a traffic cop might when directing cars to move.

Worked like a charm. His car slowly moved forward, and he rolled down the street. I walked to the westside of Washington, and the crowds that were watching this dispersed, and I heard them all mumbling about the old man being foolish.

I felt bad for him, it was clear he was just "out of it". Needed someone to snap him out and get him moving. I seriously question if a guy like him should be behind the wheel of an automobile, but that's not my job. I just wanted to get him out of danger, off the street.

Then I remembered, while walking home, a story my sisters told me once when they attended the University of Delaware in the late 80's.

Their professor (in Psych 101) was talking about how people have problems reacting in specific situations, especially in a crisis. He asked his students what would they do in specific scenarios, like if they saw someone getting mugged or if they noticed that a pedestrian was struck by a car or if an elderly person needed help crossing the street.

All offered noble answers. Students raised their hands saying what they would do, some attacking the mugger back. Some saying how they would do CPR on the person hit by a car, or some saying they would stop and help the elderly person.

Weeks later, during class a student walked into the middle of class, and walked up to the professor in the middle of a lecture, with a test he was holding. He began to argue that he shouldn't have gotten the F, and he wanted to talk to him RIGHT NOW. The professor argued back, and the student struck the professor, knocking the teacher down, and the professor was on the ground, unmoving.

The class sat there, stunned.

The student moved away, and started to leave the lecture hall. The rest of the class didn't move. No one knew what to do.

The student ran up the steps, and out the door.

The class slowly roused, and the professor jumped up, saying "Well, now we see how you really react in a crisis."

Everyone gasped or laughed.

The student who "struck" the professor walked back into the classroom, and revealed that it was a test. The professor and student proved that most people are unprepared to act outside of "normal" situations, especially when confused.

I always found that story interesting to me.

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This page contains a single entry by Furey published on April 18, 2008 12:49 AM.

Dog Shirts, Old Friends And Baby Got No Back. was the previous entry in this blog.

What I Learned My First Year As A Homeowner is the next entry in this blog.

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