When my son was little I finally bought a car. We lived in San Francisco, at Franklin and Clay, which is one of the hillier sections of the city. Parking, even with a parking control sticker, was pretty tough to come by. One day I came home after an afternoon doing whatever it was, my 2 year old in the back seat, and there was a PRIMO parking place right by my building. If angles had been singing, that parking place couldn’t have been more miraculous because it was also big enough that even I could parallel park in it. Which I did. As I was getting my son out of his car seat and gathering up our stuff, I noticed an elderly woman walking slowly s l o w l y up Clay Street. Which was steep right there. Very steep. And it was a warm afternoon.
She reached my car about the time I had my son in my arms. And she stopped and I said hello. And then she asked me for a ride. She had a doctor’s appointment on the other side of two hills and she was walking up those steep, steep hills. My first thought was, but don’t you see this parking place I got? RIGHT BY MY BUILDING? But I said yes, of course, because no one should make a 70 or 80 year old woman walk up two more steep hills to her doctor’s appointment.
I like to attribute all my subsequent experiences with parking mojo to giving an old woman a ride to her doctor’s appointment.
Some years later, when we’d moved north and my son was about ten, I think, we were driving from wherever to home. And I notice, as I am driving, that there is a woman who — well, if you’ve seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding, imagine the 50 or 60 year old Greek matriarchs in that movie, plump and dark and a bit, well, blowsy, and that’s what this woman looked like. She was wearing business appropriate clothes, though. She was obviously in a hurry. She was practically running along the sidewalk.
We stopped at a light and the woman reached the corner and then ran across two lanes of traffic to my car and bent down to the front passenger window. She looked harried and flustered and I opened the window and she asked me, begged really, for a ride to the bus stop. My first thought was, Hell no! You look like a crazy lady with your hair flying all around and you are accosting complete strangers. But of course her ink black hair was flying all around, she was not dressed for running yet had been running because she was going to miss her bus and she was pretty far from the stop, to be honest.
So I gave her a ride and made her wear her seatbelt even though she didn’t want to. I dropped her at the bus stop and my son and I went home.
The reason I gave two complete strangers rides was for more than just the obvious. I did it because when I was a teenager, my mother was a volunteer who drove cancer patients to their chemo treatments. And one lovely lady, who was dying of cancer, came to live with us for four months because none of her children would take her in.
And I have never, ever forgotten that.
Tags: It matters what you do