Friday, March 07, 2014

Car Trouble

After my exchange with the woman in Philadelphia, my brother and I had an uneventful ride back to our hometown, and as it was approaching 10pm, but not 10 yet, we were discussing options for dinner. As we approached our exit from the highway, we noticed an older sedan stopped with no lights in the left (passing) lane. This was in a construction zone, with high Jersey barrier walls on both sides of the 2 travelling lanes, and no shoulder. The next pull-off was about 1/10 of a mile up, and was the exit we had been planning on taking.

As I came past the vehicle, I slowed down, and was trying to see if it had been involved in an collision or why it was stopped. Then I heard someone yelling “Can you help us?”. As there was no traffic behind me, I was able to stop and roll down my window, at which point the passenger said the car had died with a dead battery and they needed a jump.

I made a quick assessment and said it wasn’t safe to do that, but if they wanted, they could put the car in neutral and I’d push them off to the exit ramp, and then try to help them. They accepted, and I quickly backed up and got behind their car.

With light traffic, we were able to get the other car off the main highway, and into the shoulder and exit lane. The other car was occupied x2, both young men in their late teens to early 20’s. The driver said they had been on their way back to school, about 7 more miles along the road, when the car died. He speculated that he might be having alternator issues. My brother went back and alerted oncoming traffic of the obstruction with his flashlight, while also paying attention to what I was doing. I grabbed my extra-long jumper cables and proceeded to work with the driver of the other car to connect our batteries.

After some minor issues (the other car’s battery had side posts and minimal area to access the positive terminal), we were able to get them jumped. I told them to head up the ramp and try to make it to a parking lot, and I’d be right behind them. I threw the jumper cables back in my car and took off after them.

I caught up with them at the next traffic light, and the driver said that the car seemed to be running fine, and they were going to try to make it to school. I suggested an alternate route to avoid the rest of the construction zone, so that if the car died again, they would have safe options to pull over, and they headed in that direction, while I headed to drop my brother at his residence.

I found this event to be an interesting occurrence immediately after the brief interaction in my last blog. If you notice, I never mentioned race in either post. Interestingly, both the middle-aged woman and the 20-ish men were all black. So why did I “run” from one, and take risks to help the latter pair?

The first woman startled me - she appeared somewhere where I hadn’t seen anyone approaching. In addition to the threat indicators that I believe I subconsciously processed, I was rattled because I had not seen her until she closed my reactionary gap, and since it was clear that my situational awareness wasn’t what it should have been, I decided that the quickest and safest option was to get away from the situation.

The second pair were in a position of danger. I’ve heard of criminals putting themselves into a position to be able to target a Good Samaritan, but they were stopped dead in the water on a major highway. Had I left them there, even for a few minutes until police or the roadside safety patrol came by, the consequences could have been deadly. I offered them an option that I felt was reasonable (since both of us were in older cars, and my front bumper is already dinged up) and got them to relative safety.

Once we stopped, it was clear that both occupants of the car were more worried about their situation than trying to attack me. I didn’t.notice any of SouthNarc’s “threat indicators” and it was clear that their car was truly disabled. I was also in a better position to control the situation, because I had determined the location our interaction would take place, and my brother was in a position where he could provide cover if needed.

Anyway - that was my Sunday night.

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