Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Monsters and Angels

The title is only because a song has been running through my head for a week - despite not having actually heard it in over a decade. And because I could think of no appropriate title. Perhaps one will come to me, and this whole paragraph will have to be deleted. Perhaps not.

Warning: This post is rambly, slightly graphic, and potentially entirely nonsensical. Read at your own peril.

My brother manages a small fleet of semi-drivers. They are a company operation, and recently had a company meeting several hours away from their home base. My brother sent a driver to the meeting, and on the way home the driver pulled to the side of a major interstate freeway in his rig, and killed himself. The company (and therefore my brother) did not have a lot of information about the incident, though they had been concerned at the driver's five day absence from work.

This is what boggles me the most about this incident. The truck sat on the side of this major interstate, high traffic corridor, for five days. And no one stopped. Not another rig, not a random passenger vehicle, not the Highway Patrol for the area. Five days, and no one noticed this semi truck sitting in the same place, day after day as they drove from one place to another, talking on their cell phones, daydreaming about dinner, chatting up the vacation plans to be implemented upon arrival to wherever.

I didn't know the driver, my brother lives in another state after all, and we have never been overly close. But that isn't the point, is it? How many times have I driven past a car on the side of the road thinking 'oh, everyone has cell phones, I am sure help is on the way'? How much time would I truly lose by stopping and offering a hand? What is the world coming to when no one does?

When I blew a tire out on a deserted road at midnight a couple of years ago, I stood there, a woman, in the light of my own car's headlights in the snow, and watched two highway patrol cars speed past along with a long stream of other cars. I was near tears when someone finally did stop. A minivan. With two men in it who hopped out together to ask what I needed, where I was going (I had at that point decided to stick my thumb out in hopes someone would stop for a hitchhiker who would not stop for a broken car, funny how that works). They were my lifesavers that night, possibly literally. They let me use a cell phone, and I called the closest friend who could come help, and they came, and we all went home happy.

I spent perhaps 30 minutes alone on the side of that road, no more. And yet it was terrifying, it was an eon of scariness and despair. And yes, I was terrified when these nice young men hopped out of their car - I am a woman of a certain age, and I was taught to be terrified, to never talk to strangers, never stop on the freeway, never trust strange men who stop to help you.

Is this why no one stopped to find my brother's worker? Because that's how we were raised? If so, how sad we are as a nation, as humanity. There is no kindness in strangers anymore, because strangers are afraid of one another. This is what kept me from sleep last night, and what makes me want to put my head on my desk and cry today.

I won't though, because I know that there are monsters and angels, and that each comes by turns in a well-balanced world. I can't really change that, but I can try to be the right thing at the right time.


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