I was driving home after having breakfast with a good friend. It was mid-morning, one of those unusually hot and humid days in Detroit which become less and less unusual with each new season. I stopped at a red light and saw a woman across the street, waiting for a bus. She was seated on the sidewalk, several feet from the bus stop and out of the scorching rays of the sun. I drew a deep breath as I watched her fiddle with something in her hands.
I remember well waiting for buses in the summer sun … arriving at the bus stop sticky from the walk to get me there; searching for some small piece of unoccupied shade where I could plant myself for the wait; hoping that the next bus still had seats available so I could put myself back together before arriving at my final destination. The light turned green, I turned the corner passing the woman, still seated and I hoped enjoying a small bit of comfort from the cool cement.
I was in no hurry and enjoying the cooled-air of my comfortable car. How did I do it all those years without air conditioning? I wondered. I turned at the next corner, and the next, and two more after that until I was stopped directly in front of the woman, still seated on the sidewalk waiting for the bus. I rolled down my window and inquired, Would you like a ride? She could not hear me so she rose to her feet and started toward the car. Would you like a ride? I repeated. She looked at me with puzzled eyes, still grasping the cell phone she’d been playing with in her hands.
No, that’s ok. I’m going to Southfield was her response.
I’m going that way I offered again.
Still looking puzzled, more likely suspicious of my offer, I added It’s ok, really, I’m harmless.
OK, she replied, if you’re sure.
She got in the car and continued the texting correspondence she’d started on her phone while introducing herself to me as Georgia. In the 8 minutes it took to get to her destination, I found out she was the mother of 4, held 3 jobs, and had been called into work on her day off because the till was missing a considerable amount of money. It was her job to figure out who had depleted the till and call him/her to accountability. When we arrived at her place of employment, I wished her luck with her investigation. She thanked me for the ride and headed toward the door, still texting with her phone.
I was so glad I'd stopped and hoped she was, too. I would tell no one and save myself the lectures about picking-up strangers and the like ... Words that would turn my minute and randon act of kindness into an enormous and conscious act of ignorance.