Tuesday, June 23, 2015


I've been thinking of times where I've needed help and how often it comes in a manner so different from how i imagined. The kind word from someone with scruffy looks and gruff exterior, the silliness of a playful cat jumping into my arms to be held, as if that were the MOST important item on my list, the belly laugh of a young child. Sometimes we're not even aware we need the help until it comes.

I've had many such moments and wonder how many i missed. On occasion, I've been the helpful one, sometimes unwittingly.

One remembrance got me to laughing. It was before i moved here full-time. I had come for a few days to spend time looking at some real estate here and a friend who lives here and myself were in my car. My car is a first generation Honda Insight. They don't make them anymore, sad to say, as it really is my dream car. It's a two seater hatchback, meant to be a commuter car, transporting only an adult and some gear or two adults and not much more given that its maximum payload is 365 lbs
(26 stone, 1 lb/ ~166 kg).

My friend J and i were discussing dinner plans as i passed by a large man on a bike. J had been training for a multi-day charity ride and as a result, took a keen in interest in any cyclist, looking at the kind of bike he was riding, and since we were in a small town, to see if it were someone she knew.

"We have to stop," she said matter-of-factly. "That's Rich, and it looks as though one of his wheels isn't right."

I pulled off on the shoulder just a bit beyond Rich. He didn't recognize my car, and why would he? I wasn't living here at the time, and i had out-of-state plates. He stared with a look of puzzlement, and J got out from the passenger's side. He greeted her warmly, and she asked what was going on with his bike.

Well,  he had been on training ride, going about 26 miles (41.5 km) when he popped a couple spokes. He thought he'd ride slowly the rest of the way home, nursing it along.

"Where's your cell phone, Rich?" J asked. "Why didn't you call your wife?"

He had left his cell phone at home, as he didn't think he needed it. And the wife was busy with errands and possibly visiting a friend, so calling her wasn't going to be much help. We used my cell phone to try Rich's wife just in case, but the home line was engaged. He couldn't remember his cell phone number to call that, and even if he did, he wasn't sure it was turned on. If his wife was yakking to one of her friends, it'd take a while for us to reach her.

As he was speaking, another spoke twanged off the tire. J told him he couldn't ride home safely. He nodded a bit slowly. It was a bit over 3 miles (5 km) to his house and he didn't feel like walking the bike the rest of the way home. He'd just be careful—

No, that was being silly. We could take him home. J said this in earnestness, and he looked at her as if she had three heads. I was the smallest of the three of us, and while i'm not tall (nearly 5'2"/157.5cm), i am chunky. J is a bit taller and rounder than i am. Rich is tall and broad; easily 6'2" (188 cm) and 275 lbs (19 stone 9 lbs / 125 kg), and i'm sure he was wondering how we were all going to fit in my little car. Plus the bike. Fortunately, we were going downhill, so we wouldn't strain the car all that much, and we were close to the downtown area, so we didn't need to drive fast.

He took off the front wheel and put it and the rest of the bike in the hatchback. I was going to squish in with the bike, but there wasn't enough room for that. J thought we could make it work if she drove and i sat on Rich's lap. We couldn't get the seat belt around the both of us, so i held it across and as close to the snap-in part as i could.

J started up the car and eased it slowly back into the traffic lane. As we went down the hill, Rich said, "J, where are you going?"

"To your house."

"And are you aware that by going this way to my house, we'll pass right by the police station? Do you think that's such a good idea?"

A grin came to all of our faces. We laughed about clowns in Volkwagens, i said we could explain that i was from away and didn't realize this was a problem, and here i tried again in vain to buckle the seat belt. Well sometimes, it's the thought that counts.

We got to Rich's house by a circuitous route that took us around and away from the police station. His wife heard the sound of my car in the drive and peered out the window while on the phone. She plainly gawked as i climbed off Rich's lap, Rich unfolded himself, and then we got the bike out of the back. J got out of the driver's side, waved to Rich's wife, who waved back slowly, and then she finished up her phone call and came outside.

By this point, J, Rich, and i were laughing at how we crammed ourselves in, did he have all the spokes, how this might have been something we'd have done as teenagers not as 50-somethings or nearly so (i was the baby of the three and in my late 40s).

His wife wanted to hear the whole story, which we quickly relayed. She was amazed we all fit in there and the bike, too. Rich was amazed that an out-of-state car would pull over to offer help and more surprised when someone he knew alighted from it.

While i nearly always appreciate help, i think the times it pops up and volunteers tend to be most memorable, don't you?