Sunday, July 26, 2009

Stopping to Help

I don't know if I've mentioned it recently, but the temperature in Phoenix right now is currently hovering around hotter-than-hell. By the time I walk to the garage I'm generally covered in sweat.

Now, I realize having an over-enthusiastic cooling system is better than not having one at all. All the same, trips outside are carefully considered right now in order to minimize the amount of heat I have to deal with. Otherwise I've got to change my clothes three times every day.

So this is the time of year when I'm extra gracious to pedestrians while driving or riding. I mean, those poor bastards need to get into some air conditioning as soon as possible!

Yesterday I went to a cigar lounge to work on rewriting last year's Nanowrimo novel some more (it's coming along quite well, if you care). Ordinarily I'd go to a coffee shop, but it's just too hot for that kind of thing. The new battery for the Triumph was still charging, so I took the cage. I did some writing and enjoyed a gigantic cigar in air conditioned comfort. It was nice.

Of course, eventually I had to go home again, which meant getting into the oven-hot car. In addition to putting up a sunscreen in the windshield, we now cover the steering wheel and other controls which require handling with a towel. This is so we don't have to put on oven mitts to drive.

So, as I drove home (waiting for the A/C to really get working), I ended up stopped at a red light, waiting to turn left. As I watched traffic go by, I noticed a beat up old car roll to a stop in the middle of the intersection. The passenger hopped out and started pushing the car, but didn't make a whole lot of progress.

The light changed, and I made my turn. I parked as soon as I safely could and ran back to help push the car.

A guy in a van pulled in right behind me, and as I took off to help, I heard him say something. I'd reached the stalled car before I realized he'd asked me if I was going to help those guys.

I helped the guy already pushing the car, and a couple minutes later the other fellow who'd stopped reached us and helped push as well. The car's exterior was hot enough to toast bread, so pushing the darn thing was a little uncomfortable. The three of us got the car safely out of the road and into a gas station's parking lot. From there, I pretty much just wished them good luck and hopped back into the Mustang.

As I drove away, I considered the oddity of the other guy asking me if I was going to help. It bothered me that he felt had to ask. Did he expect me to go back there and yell at them to get their damn car out of the intersection? Tell them to stop obstructing traffic before I called the cops? Of course I'd stopped to help. That's what people do, right?


Because we're in the desert, where the weather and nature are actively conspiring to kill everyone foolish enough to live here. Pushing a car in the afternoon heat is the kind of thing that kills people.

I don't know if people are afraid of getting robbed, or lazy, or what, but I'd venture to say that most stranded vehicles are just that - stranded. In the friggin' desert! If I wanted to rob someone, I wouldn't do it by parking my car in the desert heat.

So it bothers me that stopping to help someone is so unusual that people have to ask if that's what you're doing. Maybe I expect too much.