Tuesday, February 12, 2008

open letter to the guy who helped push my car out of a parking space on Saturday

Hey dude,

Thanks. You left before I actually got my car out of that icy snow pile, but thanks. Here's what happened before you walked along and helped me:

I got in my car. I started my car. I hit the gas and my wheels spun and spun. Snow sprayed. I said "fuck!" I called home to see if Mom and Dad had any good ideas.

Mom said: "Do you have any kitty litter?"

Do I have kitty litter? In my car???

"Wedge your car floor mats under your front tires to get traction."

Mom watches a lot of Discovery Channel.

So I did. My tires spun. The air filled with the aroma of burnt floor-mat. I tried Drive and Reverse, Drive and Reverse, D and R. Holy shit! I moved! I'm home free! My car jumped the curb! I'm now stuck in a brand new snowbank! And partway blocking the alley! Yay! Wait! NooooooOOooOOoo!!!

To sum up: I was stuck and, as an added bonus, illegally parked.

Then my Good Samaritan comes walking along. I'm not sure if he really wanted to help me. He looked like the kind of guy who would've felt like a jerk if he didn't help a small blonde chick spinning her tires in an illegally parked car. Me, I don't have such feelings. Small blonde chicks can fend for themselves.

He gave me a few pushes to get out of the spot, from the back of the car and the front of the car: in drive, in reverse, in drive, in reverse. No dice. I sprayed him with snow. I said "Thank you for your help, I'll keep trying" -- in other words: you do not have to continue helping me, you are dismissed. He left me with parting advice. And then he walked five feet away from my car and slipped on the ice. His legs did a cartoon like whhoo woo whooop -- like when Scooby and Shaggy are trying to run away from a ghost and their feet don't get traction -- and then BAM! Gravity! He fell!

Oh dear.

I imagined a world where he did not stop to try to help me. In this world, he did not slip and fall on the ice and crack his spine. He walked on, entered the liquor store on the corner, and purchased a 200 million dollar lotto ticket; it is with this money he will use to cure all forms of cancer.

"Ohmygod, are you okay???"

"Fine, fine," he said, not paralyzed, or dead.

"Can I... buy you coffee or something?"

What?! Was I offering to buy coffee? Was that something I was going to do if he said yes? Did I have any money in my wallet?

"I'm fine!" He walked off, probably embarrassed for being such a guy, failing to push a car into a street, and then slipping on the ice.

I felt like such a douche.

Let's talk about being a Good Samaritan. The "feel good" feeling of Good Samaritanism is overrated. I was once at a theatre, and this old guy was about to trip down a set of stairs, and this Good Samaritan reached out to stop him from falling, and the old tripping guy dragged the other guy down the stairs and they both ended up in the hospital.

Just think of the last time one of your friends -- not your "Best friend", say, but a friend, or an acquaintance -- asked you for a ride to the airport. What's your initial reaction to that? Especially if you live on the north side of Chicago and give somebody a ride to O'Hare or Midway or it might as well be the airport in fucking Topeka, Kansas for as long as it takes with traffic. This is your reaction: DRIVING YOU TO THE AIRPORT IS A TOTAL FUCKING FUCK OF AN INCONVENIENCE ON MY FUCKING SATURDAY! Don't lie. I won't believe you if you say your first thought is "I would totally love to help you without reciprocation ever, I'm just happy for a deed well done." But maybe you're a Golden Rule type: if I needed a ride to the airport, it would be nice if somebody could give me a ride if I asked, so I will do unto others.

This is the problem with car culture in America. Those with cars are doomed to give friends rides to airports.

One of my friends asked me to give him a ride from his apartment in Andersonville to Evanston. I was like sure, no problem. And then I Google-mapped his apartment to where he wanted to go, and it was an easy bus and/or train ride. It was seriously like a 3 block walk from the Purple Line. What the hell? I mean, I gave him a ride because I said I would! But I never stopped being irritated about saying "yes." The round-trip took an hour out of my day after work. And I started thinking: am I ever going to call this guy for a ride to the airport? No. Probably not. Why'd I say yes? To be nice?

And this guy, the one who tried pushing my car out of the snow. I didn't ask for his help. And not only did my car not budge, but he walked away thinking he was a failure. Then he slipped and fell and bruised ass.

He was long gone when I finally rocked out of that parking spot, on his advice: keep the wheel straight and go in drive and reverse, drive and reverse. That sounds like simple advice, but I was so frustrated that I would have otherwise continued jolting the steering wheel like I was having a seizure. I was so thrilled when I got out of that motherfucking parking space, I was half a mile away before I realized I left my melted floor-mats on the street. So thanks, guy, whoever you are. Sorry you didn't get to enjoy seeing my little Thomas the Tank I-think-I-can yellow car fighting its front-wheels out of the snow. You at least deserved a stupid coffee.