Recently I was sitting in my car, waiting for someone to complete a rather lengthy appointment so we could go home, and a car pulled in the spot next to me. The occupants never got out, but they did crank up the music, and occasionally the driver loudly slapped the outside of his door in time to the music. Somebody in the car was also making these weird noises from time to time, almost like growling, but I also heard talking from time to time. It really kind of creeped me out. I’m thinking “These guys must be really high” or “Why aren’t they using WORDS? This is SO weird . . .”
I couldn’t really see who was in there, due to the angle of the cars, but I figured it was maybe a couple of college students waiting around for a girlfriend to get off work or something, since we were parking in front of a local supermarket. (For once, aliens in human bodies didn’t cross my mind.) I had been just about to get out of my car and go in the store, but decided not to, since I had been using my computer in the car and my bizarre new neighbors must surely have seen it. I didn’t want to come back out and find my laptop gone – I need it! So I waited.
and waited . . .
and waited . . .
The car never left. I thought I was the only one in town without a life, but these guys were not going away, and after more than an hour I figured that maybe they were there to stay. Ya think?
A bit more time passed, and suddenly my laptop kind of flickered, like it does when I switch from plugged in to free-standing. My first thought was “Uh-oh,” because I have seen this before, when I overused the battery on my old car and no longer had enough power to get it started. I quickly unplugged the computer and tried to start the car, and all I got was the rapid clicking you get when you don’t have enough energy to make things work. Oh, great.
Well, the driver’s door of the weirdoes next to me popped open immediately, and a guy of about 50 jumped out and motioned for me to roll down my window. I dropped it about halfway – fortunately I still had enough power to run some things for a bit – and he said “No battery, huh?”
Sadly I agreed, then he took charge of things. Turns out his name was Charley and the growling in the car was coming from him playing with one of the two large dogs sitting in there with him. After much maneuvering he got his car close enough to mine for his jumper cables to reach (I didn’t even have any of my own!), but his had a hole in the insulation, so he ran into the store and bought some electrical tape, fixed them, and tried again. They were bad, so he ran around asking other people if we could borrow some cables, and eventually he found some and we got the car started.
While all of this is going on, a lady came up to Charley and started begging him for a dollar, something he didn’t have. She chatted with me for a bit, too, but I was also short on cash and didn’t have anything to give her. As the conversation went on, it turns out that both Charley and Dawn, our new friend, were homeless, yet here they were helping me and not asking anything in return. Dawn was on the streets because her latest boyfriend had beaten her up once too often, and Charley had had a series of financial problems that had cost him everything.
I had a lot to reflect on as I finally headed home. These people were they type that I usually avoid, just in case, but neither of them was high, crazy, or actually scary at all. They had been concerned about me and my problems, which were so small compared to theirs, and had spent their time and energy to make sure I was okay. And as I drove away, they were working on helping each other find a safe place to stay.
I’m not sure just what I learned from this whole experience, since I know that some people out wandering at night are crazy or dangerous, but so are some people who work in busy offices, like the guy who got fired and returned to work to beat and stab and shoot his co-workers to death, or the executive who lost all his cash playing the market and blew away his stock broker. I guess the message here is that you just never know, and I think next time I won’t be so quick to judge someone just because I hear weird noises and even growling from a car. It just might be a man taking care of a beloved puppy, even when he’s without a home of his own, and not drug-crazed aliens looking for blood. Maybe . . .