“Every Time I Try to Help Someone, it Goes Like This”

Old Man

Tonight’s hour and fifteen minute drive home, which normally takes me half an hour – on snowy, icy roads – brought me back to a similar night 18 years ago.

I was twenty years old, going to college full time, working 3 part time jobs, and interning with the local Sheriff’s Department. The Sheriff’s Department is a round the clock operation, so it allowed me flexibility to accrue hours very late at night into the early morning, if need be. Apparently, as a 20-year-old, I never slept. On this particular night I was getting my hours in from 9pm-midnight.

As I left the station at midnight, it was cold and snowing sideways the wind was so fierce. I warmed up my little Honda Civic and settled in for the long ride home. I never ever took the interstate at night for fear of breaking down and being stranded (ummm…yeah…pre-cell phone era), but this night I decided it may be more clear and a little safer than the side roads. I got on the interstate behind an old, brown, Ford pick-up truck moving 15 miles per hour. Ugh. The passing lane hadn’t even been touched by a plow yet – it was going to be a long ride home.

Nearing my exit, I was excited to finally be losing the old brown truck so I could get home a little more quickly. Imagine my disappointment when his directional went on at my exit. But he didn’t just stop at the STOP sign, he pulled way off the ramp and got out of his truck. As I pulled up alongside him, I realized it was a very old man, in his eighties, I’d say. He was clad in Dickies, which had definitely seen better days, a little knit hat, worn out work boots, a big leather bomber jacket, and cute round-framed glasses. As he shuffled about the perimeter of his truck in the deep snow, I couldn’t just drive off. Keeping all the safety rules Mom taught me at the forefront (Oh, what am I saying? If I’d kept all those rules at the forefront, I wouldn’t have been on the interstate in the first place!), I rolled my window down about an inch and yelled out to see if he was okay.

“Ohhhhhh, yes, dearie. I’m gettin’ along fine. Just turnin’ the lugs for the 4 wheel drive. Them roads is somethin’ awful!”

We exchanged pleasantries, wished each other safe travels, and off I went. It wasn’t too long before I could see his headlights slowly coming along behind me. I was relieved to know he’d made it back into his truck without slipping and breaking a hip. Suddenly, I noticed he was flashing his lights like wild. Again (against my Mom’s better judgment), I pulled to the side a bit and waited for him. I was imagining the poor old man suffering a stroke or a heart attack from trudging through all that snow. As I waited for his truck to approach, I was trying to remember all I’d learned in CPR…but I’d never had to use it, I was panicking. The old brown truck pulled parallel to my little Civic, and out hopped the old man with a grin on his face. His eyes were twinkling behind his cute little round-framed glasses, his knit hat was covered in snowflakes, and his worn out boots were shuffling quickly to my car. Again, I rolled the window down only an inch.

“Say, sweetheart, you got time for a drink or you gotta get right home?”

I was stunned. Flabbergasted. I couldn’t find words, I was still on CPR procedures in my head.

“I…uh…I….well I live with my boyfriend and he’s expecting me.”

“Sure must be nice to have someone warm to go home to.   You get there safe!”

He gave me a wink and shuffled back to his truck. I sat there staring at the big Harley Davidson embroidery on the back of his bomber jacket, wondering what the hell had just happened.

To this day, I’m sure by “drink” he meant it was time for his Metamucil; and I never stop to help people in need. You could be standing there with blood spurting out, waving your left arm at me with your right hand, and I wouldn’t stop. Call 911. Call your Mom. Wait for the cops. I don’t care, just don’t call me!

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