Keeping Watch

On a summer day when the sun has been sizzling your car like an egg in the parking lot, you immediately open the windows and let the heat steam out. You let the wind cool down your car before kicking in the AC as you drive home after a full day at work. For my husband Mike, the twist to his normal commute came when he waited on a side street to take a left on a busy intersection.

He watched and waited as a few men crossed the street in front of him. A straggler to the group was a few yards behind. He stopped where the sidewalk came to an end and waited for Mike to turn. Mike waited for him to cross. Pedestrians had the right-of-way. My husband motioned with his arm for the man to ‘go’. He’d wait. The man seemed out of it, a little drunk or on something as he staggered off the curb. However, the man didn’t go. Getting impatient, Mike motioned again for him to cross. The guy finally did.

With the man out of his way, Mike looked right and then left. He waited for a stream of cars to pass. Next thing he knew, the man who crossed in front of him was now in his car. He had quick opened the door and plopped down in the passenger seat. The guy was big and tall. He wanted Mike to take him to his friend’s house. In one quick assessment, my husband saw that the man was drunk or on something. Mike played into it. He told the drunk (as I will call the man now) that it was too far to drive him there, but he would drop him off at the gas station a block down. The drunk thought about it and then told Mike to call him later, which my husband said he would. The drunk got angry then and stated that Mike didn’t know the phone number. Mike told him that he did, it was in his phone. He’d call. The man settled down, satisfied with his response. Mike again offered to take him to the gas station, but the man decided to get out.

Not until later that evening did Mike really think about what had happened. In one small second, a stranger was in his car. If instincts hadn’t kicked in, if he hadn’t played into it – going with the flow – would the outcome have been the same? What if that had been me in my car? What would I have done? Even now, I’m not sure how I would have responded.

What I do know, through his experience, I will make sure my doors are locked and my windows only half-way open. I’ll watch as people pass. I’ll make sure they head in the direction intended.

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