I ran out of gas today. I don’t mean that my energy fizzled and I took a nap or that I went running and couldn’t take another step. I mean that I ran out of gas driving down the highway. After a fun Green Bean Casserole Run and a lovely visit with two of my Kilimanjaro friends, I was driving home, and my car suddenly lost power. I could feel it coasting, so I turned on my hazards and navigated over to the right in the hopes that I could get to the shoulder before the car died completely. I did, but just barely. My driver side tires were pretty much on the line on the side of the road, so I crawled out the passenger side door and called for help. Then I waited. For over an hour, I waited.
Once I had made my call and knew that help was on the way, I got back into the car and waited in the passenger seat. Because I was barely off the road, I could feel the car sway with every truck or larger vehicle that passed by. That didn’t feel safe to me, so I got out of the car and stood behind my car watching the traffic go by.
For an entire hour, I walked up and down the side of the road or sat on the highway railing. Not one person stopped to help. Well, that’s not entirely true. My sister and nephew happened to drive by and saw me there, so they circled back around and stopped. When they did, I told them that I’d called Mom and Dad. They stayed a few minutes and then left. (My sister didn’t want to leave, but my parents insisted that they didn’t want two of their children parked in a semi-dangerous situation on the side of the road, so she left.) Aside from my sister’s short stop, no one pulled over to see if I needed anything, not even the policemen who drove by.
That no one came to my aid for over an hour both struck and saddened me.
I stood there thinking about how my town, which I suppose I should call a city, has become the kind of place that a woman is left standing on the side of the road, with hazards flashing, and everyone drives by, unwilling to be deterred from their intended destinations. I shivered a bit because I was wearing a running skirt and didn’t have any bottoms in the car. I did have an extra shirt, so I added that layer for warmth. It was in the 60s, so I wasn’t freezing, but it was windy and chilly and there I stood. Alone.
Did I look like I had the situation under control? Did anyone even consider stopping? The more I thought about it, the more disheartened I became, but then I had to stop myself.
When was the last time I stopped to help someone stranded on the side of the road? It’s been a very long time.
There have been times that I considered stopping but then got spooked at the idea. What if the driver wasn’t a nice person? What if the woman on the side of the road was playing helpless to draw in her next victim? What if I offered a ride and was held up at gunpoint on the way to the gas station? These are the kinds of things I’ve thought when I’ve considered stopping to offer aid. There have also been times when I’ve simply been in a hurry and decided that surely someone else would stop to help. Or there were times that I thought I couldn’t actually be of help since I’m not a mechanic and don’t even know how to change a tire.
How can I be upset with others for not doing what I’m often unwilling to do? I can’t. But I can become a willing helper, even if it costs me something.
After about an hour, my mom and dad showed up. They’d brought some gas in the hopes that gas alone would get my car running again. And they were right. Other than a broken gas gauge, I think my car is fine. It started right up, and I was able to drive myself to a gas station and fill my tank up.
I got home with no problem, but I’m changed. I felt the helplessness of being stranded. And mind you, I was never truly stranded. I called my parents. They answered and immediately came to my aid. It just took a little time, and in the meantime, I felt alone on the side of road. I don’t want another to feel that aloneness. So the next time I see someone pulled over on the side of the road with lights flashing, I will stop. For sure.