Who have we become?

I am so used to our wonderful writing community I forget that not everyone in life has good intentions.  Sadly, a tourist was murdered on one of the islands two days before we stopped to enjoy the native flair.  Our world has become a place where all intentions are questioned and stopping to help a stranded motorist can be scary at the very least. 

Who have we become?

On our way home from the Minneapolis airport, DH and I journeyed over unplowed and windblown roads.  We had considered staying put, as our flight didn’t land until late in the evening and the promise of nasty road conditions didn’t excite either one of us.  However, missing our kids won out and we travelled the road less taken.

Fast forward a few hours to a lonely stretch three miles out of town.  It’s midnight and DH and I are both so tired not even tooth picks can prop open our eyelids.  We see a rag-top Jeep in the ditch.  The internal debate begins.  We pass by, our headlights shining on a man waving his arms at a passing car–ours and another. 

DH slows the truck and turns around.  The misgivings hang heavy in the air between us.  What the heck are we doing?  My imagination kicks into overdrive, fueled by my recent reading of Serial, a book about psychopathic hitchhikers.  If you haven’t read it, don’t.  Unless you never plan to pick up a stray on the side of the road.  Then by all means, read away, secure in the knowledge that you will never be on the short end of the pyscho stick.

Never was there a more perfect setting for foul play than that night.  Outwardly oblivious and inwardly cowering, we took turns pushing Unlucky Motorist’s Jeep and trying our hand at the wheel.  To no avail.  UM’s four wheel drive remained useless and his truck stranded in the mounting snow drift.

What to do?  We offered him a ride, even though fourteen other cars had passed him by.

The questions abounded: where do you make let UM sit?  Will a DVD case serve as an adequate weapon?  What will our kids say when we meet our demise 90 miles from home rather than on a remote island or in an airplane crash?  Why didn’t someone else pick up UM first so we didn’t have to go through so much turmoil?

Then I looked at it from his point of view.  Likely we were no better travel companions.  After all, who in their right mind would be driving around at midnight in the middle of a winter weather advisory?

And so I wonder, who have we become when the need for help is shunned and good intentions are questioned out of fear and distrust?

I hate that this is our world and think maybe the dystopian novels aren’t all that far off.  I know they say all fiction is based on fact, but it was a sad reminder of how dysfunctional parts of our world have become.

Because of that, I am exceedingly thankful for my cyber friends and the writing community who open their arms to stranded writers along the way.  It is a place I feel safe and in control. 

Now that we are safely home, it is easy to say we did the right thing.  But it does make ya wonder…

Have you ever done anything that makes you think “novel fodder” in the worst way?  Have you used these experiences in your writing?  Does your writer’s imagination make simple acts seem questionable?

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14 responses to “Who have we become?

  1. Cat, my writer’s imagination can turn the most innocent Costco trip into one big adventure or a horrifying disaster (in my mind of course). My imagination can work overtime, but I just smile and pretend I’m as normal as the person in the next aisle. Little do they know that I’m ‘casing’ the joint for my next story plot. *sigh* I can’t help it. It’s just how I think. In fact just tonight I was reading a post on AQ and was cracking up laughing. When I read it to my DH and kids they ‘didn’t get it’. “Must be a writer thing,” he said. And I had to agree. We are a different breed. We can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. And I think that’s a good thing. 🙂

    • TK, LOL!

      I love this: I just smile and pretend I’m as normal as the person in the next aisle.

      I feel the same way! I wouldn’t trade my creativity for anything in the world–though it does make life interesting…

  2. I’ve never picked up a hitchhiker, but my husband and I have stopped to help stranded motorists before, though we never had to give one a lift. I think a healthy imagination can contribute to your worries in such a situation. We can imagine everything the UM can do to us, and t.v. has taught us time and again that it’s hard to judge good and evil based on just a face.

    At our old home in Houston, a neighbor girl got stranded at home one morning. She was maybe fourteen and she didn’t know us, but she saw my husband in the driveway and asked him for a ride to school. He took her there and nothing odd happened, but I could well imagine what her parents said to her that night! There’s something to be said for being careful. It’s terrible that people can’t trust one another, but ultimately, we do have to protect ourselves and those we love.

    • Barbara,

      I think you’re right, and we writers contribute to the growing fear in many ways. Media has definitely increased our anxiety in situations like this and has made us more cautious at a time when help may be needed. I didn’t like feeling distrustful, but I also knew Unlucky Motorist most likely would have suffered a horrible night had we not stopped. With his truck firmly stuck, there were only two choices, give him a lift or leave him to fend for himself.

      If I were a murderer, I wouldn’t have planned my set up any differently. It’s a lot harder to resist when the wind is blowing and snow is swirling than on a sunny afternoon.

  3. Sad, but true. When I lived in Tucson, the organist at the church I attended picked up a woman hitchhiker and was murdered. When I see someone at the side of the road, I call 911 to get them help. 😦

    • Layinda,

      I would never have done it on my own. And usually, I have my kids with me, which is a double no-no. However, I felt we needed to stop. Obviously DH felt the same. Still sends shivers when I think of the could have beens.

  4. Wow. Intense decisions. Glad it worked out well though. I’ve been through a few hairy situations, but nothing that didn’t work out well. Thankfully 🙂

    • Jemi,

      I’m glad too. Our Unlucky Motorist kept pulling at the velcro on his gloves. I think he was as nervous as we were. All I could think about was that darn book…

  5. I read so many mysteries, thrillers, and suspense novels that my imagination runs wild in a situation like this. Glad it worked out well for you. I probably would have followed layinda’s procedure of calling 911 or a tow truck on behalf of the stranded motorist.

    • Patricia,

      My understanding is that 911 isn’t very helpful anymore. They cannot offer rides, can’t change tires, can’t push cars out of ditches, etc. Even the police system has been reigned in due to the number of road side set ups. Once, a girlfriend and I ended up with a flat tire on our van–we were driving home from the zoo with my twelve daycare kids–and the policeman told us he was not allowed to help stranded motorists. His only recourse was to call a towing company.

      Our Unlucky Motorist would have been hard pressed to find anyone at midnight in the middle of a snow storm. And the closest hotel was about five miles down the road.

  6. Whenever it snows here in Seattle, people drop into ditches all the time. I’ve never once hesitated to stop and offer assistance if it looked like they needed it. It never crossed my mind that it could be a setup.

    Maybe you guys need to move somewhere where people are more neighborly.
    But I don’t necessarily recommend here…we suffer from something called “The Seattle Freeze” where we freeze out all newcomers to our area :p

    • LOL, Andrew.

      I would move to Seattle in a heart beat–I was born there. On the other hand, there ain’t no better neighborly place than the Midwest. Or so they say…

  7. This is different but kinda’ plays into the whole, help thy neighbor thing. My mother and I were talking the other day about how neighbors used to help raise kids who’s parents were destitute or the town drunk, etc. She’s from a small town. We were talking about how different times are now.
    As far as helping stranded motorists, I won’t generally stop but I’m always on my own. I wouldn’t be of alot of help anyway. 😉

    • LOL, Lisa.

      I don’t ever stop when I’m alone or with my kids either. Which is ninety percent of the time I travel. The risk is too great. I have a hard time giving directions to motorists when they roll down their window and ask how to get to so and so. I guess those years in California and Seattle made me a little wary.

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