04 August 2012

To err on the side of humanity

What do you do when you see someone on the side of the road, broken down, waving for help?

Here is what I did

I often brag about helping people jump start their poorly maintained vehicles. As a matter of fact, less than a week ago, I made a rare trip to the casino, to meet friends for dinner, when walking through the parking lot I noticed a man on the phone, trying to start his car. I stopped to help. But, that is another story. Here is what happened to me the other day.

I was driving to meet Leticia for dinner and a HIIT workout. Traffic was thick. I was merging to the right lane so that I could exit the freeway, I hate to be in traffic, when I noticed that there was a car on the shoulder, two men standing next to it, waving for help. Nobody had stopped yet. I arrogantly thought, "I guess I'll help them, shouldn't take too long".

When I stop, one of the guys walks over, we'll call him William, and asked if I spoke Spanish. I do. He went on to tell me that he doesn't know what's going on and that it had been struggling for a while now. They were driving from Houston to Indio and their car broke down in Downtown Phoenix at peak rush hour. Sucks for them, right? Yeah, it did. After about 15 minutes we finally got the car started using the time tested jump start method and then things got worse.

For some reason, whether it was user error or it was a mechanical error, the engine was revving, way too much. I imagine the tachometer was way past the red line. William starts gesturing for me to move my car out of the way and I do. I move ahead a couple of car lengths, expecting them to peel out and drive into someone other than me, but nothing. They weren't moving.

I could see, from my rear view mirror that there was a lot of smoke coming from the engine and a lot of fluid pouring out from under the car. They get out.

I back the car up and when we raise the hood, there is oil everywhere. They blew an engine. There was nothing more that I could for them.

Unfortunately, they were traveling and didn't know anyone in Phoenix. The closest person that they knew lived in Indio. He began speaking to me, sincerely saying, "If I were to pay you, would you drive us to Indio?"

Long story short; I politely refused and left."

The Dilemma

The problem was that, they were stranded, in an unfamiliar land, with no one to help them. The problem that I faced, was feeling responsible for their plight. Had I continued on, driving past them, I would not have had to make that choice to refuse to drive them. From my perspective, it would have been better on my conscience if I had never heard their story. I certainly could not have driven them to their destination, no matter what reward they were offering me.

What would you do?

Were you in my place, what would you have done? Would you have stopped in the first place? Would you have taken them to Indio? Maybe you would have been more clever and came up with win-win solution. I'd like to hear what you would have done. Post it in the comments.

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