21 December 2016

The Superhero Slept Late

I usually write these things weeks in advance.  Had one all set up, but I'm kicking it aside because of something that happened today (Tuesday).

7:30 AM.  Still dark out.  I was rushing around getting ready to go to work, when the doorbell rang.

It seldom does, and at that hour of the morning?  Almost unheard of.

I opened the door.  There was a girl, or young woman.  Middle or late teens.  I had never seen her before.

The term is flat affect; I looked it up.  No expression.  Monotone voice.  Symptomatic of schizophrenia, depression, autism, or brain injury. 

Not that I'm a diagnostician, of course.

"I was wondering," she said, "if you could give me a ride to Ferndale."  Ferndale is fifteen miles away.

"No," I said.

"Okay.  Thanks."  And she walked away.

I shut the door and immediately started second-guessing myself.  What should I have done?  What would  I have done if I was more awake and not rushed?

Drive her to Ferndale?  Not  a chance.

Invite her in?  I don't think so.

Ask her what was going on? (What was that lost soul doing, walking up or down my hilly suburban street in the dark on a chilly morning at, did I mention, 7:30?)

"The Mask" by W. H. https://www.flickr.com/photos/wolfgangfoto/3206913459
Offered her something to eat?  Offered to contact the social workers (which at that time of day, would have meant calling the cops)?

I realized, eventually, I should have offered to give her two bucks, which would have paid for a bus to Ferndale.  Maybe that's what she was hinting at/hoping for.  If she had asked for busfare I like to think that I would have  shelled it out, even in my semi-sleepy condition.

But by then she was gone.

I read crime.  I write crime.  My brain cranked out a dozen plots to explain the event, some with her as victim, some as villain.  I'll never know what really happened.

But I'll tell you this.  I think we all wonder from time to time how we would react in an emergency.  I seem to have gotten an answer, and it's not one I'm proud of.  This is, after all, the season to err on the side of trusting people.

Maybe I could have been a little more up-to-the-occasion if I had been more awake.  Maybe not.

But merry and happy to you and yours.


  1. I tend to be on the skeptical side, Rob. So maybe it would have been nice to help her and maybe it would have come back to bite you. I've helped several people in various ways over the years and it usually doesn't go real well in the end. Though sometimes.

    And Happy Holidays to you and yours!


  2. Not an easy thing to wake up to. You can second guess yourself over and over. There is no good answer. It's a little like Schrodinger's cat. As a writer, you can go a bunch of ways with this.

  3. I think one reason we write is to rewrite real life – and our personalities.. But you answered the door and assessed the situation and found it not a crisis. That's a positive.

    Good holiday wishes.

  4. I hear you, Rob.

    46 years ago, in 1970, I was walking down Q Street in Washington, D.C. A well dressed middle age woman approached me and asked if I could give her 50 cents. I was used to being asked for money by people on the sorrier side of life and I often gave it. She did not look the part and, flustered, i said no, I would not give her the 50 cents.

    She sighed and walked away.

    And now, 46 years later, I still can neither forget the incident nor stop wondering.

  5. Since we bought this house on the east side of Buffalo in 2004, we have occasionally had people come to the door asking for money or even for a roll of toilet paper. I don't mind things like that as much as I mind the Jehovah's Witnesses & the people who try to get you to change utility companies. Finally we put a sign on the door saying we don't want uninvited guests.

    A guy out front of Tim Horton's a couple of days ago was asking ppl for money, starting at $1.

    Dale, I used to live in D.C. & once in the 1980s at the Foggy Bottom metro station I saw a woman get arrested for sneaking through a turnstile.

  6. I understand why the incident troubles you, but she took you by surprise, and you had only a few seconds to decide what to do. It's hard to come up with a quick response to such an odd situation.

  7. We all get caught with our pants down. That's why Christmas exists in the first place.

  8. Bonnie's exactly right. Give yourself a break. Back in the early '90s, before cell phones, I tripped and fell while walking to a friend's house on a Saturday during the day. Sprained my ankle and scraped my leg. I hobbled up to the nearest front door. A woman with a baby answered. She looked skeptically as I explained and asked to borrow her phone to call my friend until she noticed the blood running down my leg. Then I guess she believed me.

  9. This reminds me of the opening of a Linwood Barclay book. Only he does give the girl a ride, and the results are devastating.

    Bonnie said what I'm thinking. One needs sufficient time and a clear mind to assess a risky situation. And that would be risky (driving an unknown female when you are a man.)

  10. A struggle. Now you're better equipped for the future. Not an easy challenge. Part of why I work so hard keeping a neighborhood list and facilitating Map Your Neighborhood meetings, is so I have a better chance of being recognized if I need to knock on someone's door for help. I sleep better when I feel connected to other humans. Turning down anyone for anything is hard on my sense of connection, but I've learned through the years that refusal is sometimes appropriate.

  11. Well, at the very least, I hope a good story comes out of this uncomfortable incident.


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