I was driving through a remote portion of New Mexico, having decided to take the scenic route home from visiting a friend in Dallas, when I saw a small Japanese car off the side of the road. Bad place to be broken down, I think. You could easily die out here, in the middle of nowhere. But its lights weren’t blinking and there was nobody in it, so I didn’t stop.
800 yards down the road, I came across a young man walking down the road with a gas can. The nearest gas station is 30 miles away. I pull over and stop, and get out.
“Thank God!” he says. “I’ve been out here since yesterday, everybody kept driving past, I slept last night in the car!”
“Out of gas?”
“Yeah. Decided to walk and find some.”
So I point to the gas can on the back of my Jeep and say “Well, let’s give you a couple of gallons.” I open up the back of the Jeep and get the siphon hose out of my tool bag, and open up my gas can and stick one end in my gas can and the other into his. It’s cold, so the little squeeze bulb doesn’t start it flowing, so I have to take his end out and put my finger over it on the release cycle, but I get it flowing.
“What’s your name?” the kid says.
“You don’t want to know that,” I said.
“Well, I’ll just call you my angel, then.”
A couple of gallons later, we wrap everything up. I close up my gas can and put my siphon away again, and he puts his gas can back together. I grab my smartphone and show him where the next exit with gas is at. After I turn down any payment — “It’s a Jeep thing,” I tell him — he gives me an awkward hug and says “Well, thank you so much.” And we go our respective ways, him trudging back to his car (which is visible from where we are), and me into my Jeep to continue my road trip.
I’m just wondering, though, about all those people who just rolled right by that car without stopping to see if everything was okay. It reminds me of the attacks on Muslim women in New York that were not stopped by fellow New Yorkers intervening. We’ve become isolated, lost in our own heads, stuck in a dream mediated by computers and the media where we don’t have to do anything, we don’t have to step up, we don’t have to be responsible citizens looking out for our fellow Americans. It’s the old myth of rugged individualism, even though the pioneer settlers who settled the American frontiers were anything but — they all relied on each other every day to help get the things done needed to survive, including helping each other build their houses and raise their barns and helping each other out with their own particular specialty skills. Back in November I visited the gravesite of one of those people, high above a desolate desert valley where he had died in an attempt to earn money to send back to his congregation in Illinois. His grave is there because the people who he was traveling with buried him there when he suddenly died during their journey. Because that’s what people do, they take care of each other, even unto death itself. They didn’t just throw his body off the side of the mountain to be eaten by the buzzards.
But that day seems over now. Today… apparently we are all sociopaths. Except a few who refuse to be. Too few, I’m suspecting, for what’s going to happen these next four years.
– Badtux the Now-home Penguin