WWYD: The Stranded Car
In this installment of “What Would You Do?,” a young woman encounters a stranded family while on a day trip. Here’s Dawn:
I was on a day trip for protesting in Harrisburg Pennsylvania against medicare/medicaid cuts on a warm October day. On the way home we stopped just outside of Harrisburg at a convenience store. The four of us got some hot food and ate it outside at one of the tables.
The whole time we were eating, one particular car had pulled in and didn’t leave. There were two women and two small kids in the car. We took about an hour to eat, the car never left and the people in the car stayed put as well. As the four of us walked past the sitting car on the way to ours, the driver asked if she could use my cellphone because her battery had died. I handed it to her and stuck close to the car in case she thought about taking off.
I could hear her telling the person not to call the number back because she was borrowing a phone. After she gave the phone back and thanked me, I asked if there was something I could help with. She said no, that she was trying to get a hold of someone to bring her some gas or money because she was about an hour away from home and was on empty. I told her “good luck,” and mentioned how well behaved the two kids were in the backseat. The women both turned around and smiled at the kids and said, “they have their moments.” We finished loading in to the van.
After I thought about it for a minute or two I got a five and five ones out of my wallet and walked over to the ladies and said, “have a safe rest of your trip” as I handed them the cash. They seemed floored that a stranger was helping them get home. As we gassed up our van, they pulled up to the pump a few over from us, and put the $10 in their tank. If it was a scam to make 10 bucks, they earned it waiting in the car for the time it took for us to finish our meal.
There are scams, and there are people who are genuinely out of luck, and I would have viewed this situation in the latter. Yes, I would have given the woman my iPhone to use, and yes, I would have been a little afraid that she would have driven off with it, too. It’s human nature to feel on guard when talking to strangers. But after listening to the phone call, and seeing the kids in the backseat of the car, I would have handed the family some money—just as Dawn did. I would have been happy to see them able to put gas in their cars. And I would have saluted them before hitting the road.