Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Samaritan Apology

On Tuesday afternoon I stopped at the grocery store on my way home for lunch.  As I pulled into a parking spot a man walked up to my car window.  He was pretty scruffy looking, dirty clothes, bad teeth, and I thought "Oh boy here we go."  I was in my work uniform though, so I have to be as polite as possible to everyone, cause no one needs to be featured on the front page of the Toronto Sun...

Anyway, this guy walks right up to my car door to talk at me through the window...right away I'm annoyed!  I'm in the weaker position, trapped in my car and only able to look up at this's an annoying intimidation tactic and I don't like it.  I already know this guy wants something from me, and I'm just hoping it's only directions and not money and that he's polite.  It turns out it WAS just least initially...

"Hey bud, do you know of any gas station around here?"  The man asks me.  A simple request!  I breathe a sigh of relief.
"Yeah...just West of here right down there...a PetroCan"

"Oh yeah I tried that one...they don't have any portable containers."  Oh!  There's requirements...great.

"Oh. Well there's an Esso station at Victoria Park that might work.  They're just that way about a ten minute walk," I say.

"I've been there, too.  They couldn't help me."  At this point I've run out of gas stations in my immediate vicinity. 

"See, I'm from Sudbury," he says, "and I don't really know anything about the area around here.  There's nowhere else I could check?"  I'm starting to realize that what this guy's actual problem is is that he's run out of gas and he's stalled out his car somewhere.  I wonder why he didn't lead with this?  Suddenly I become very aware that I have a 5L portable container of gas in my trunk.  I rather selfishly don't want to give it to him though.  I have an alternate suggestion.  While I'm thinking about this the man has walked a bit away from my car, so I can finally get out.  I do this and then walk over to where he is standing.

"Hey there's a Canadian Tire right over there behind those apartment buildings," I say.  "If the gas stations don't have any containers for sale, they definitely will!"  I feel like I've just solved all of this guys problems, while not having to actually DO anything!!  Triumph!

"Oh, well I don't really want to BUY a container," he tells me, "I was hoping to just borrow one from somewhere."

Aw Crap.  This guy really IS from Sudbury if he thinks someone in Toronto is just going to let him borrow something.  He is not helping me solve this at ALL. 

So there I was, out of my car and wanting to go get my groceries and go home and have my lunch and carry on with my day.  However, I have this opportunity to help this guy from Sudbury.  As I mentioned, I have some gas in my trunk.  I could solve this guy's problem!  Walk with him to his car and give him enough gas to get to the nearest station at least.  For that matter, I could just give him the whole container and tell him to keep it!  Container and gas together are only worth 15-20 bucks, and I could just carry on with my day.

I don't take either of those options, though.  I just tell him, "Well, good luck.  Sorry, man," and walk into the grocery store. 

Why didn't I give this guy a hand? 

I know I resented the way he came up to me while I was still in my car originally and the way he put me on the spot.  I don't like being approached by strangers in the streets, especially in uniform when I know from both experience and anecdote that I have a target painted on my chest.  I also don't like to give hand-outs, in that if I tear down that wall for one person,'s a slippery slope.  Still, I wish I'd helped this guy out.  He's from out of town, he's got someone with him I think (he referred to himself as "we" a couple of times) and it really would have cost me little.  I could have made his day better and I didn't. 

I'm ashamed of that.  I wish I had done better.  Sorry parking lot guy.

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