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The Kindness of Strangers

July 12, 2008

One of the unfortunate truths about this blog is that as I am a fairly dull person, there is a chance that this will become a very dull blog.  I’ll make every effort to keep that from happening, but the risk is there.  I don’t go out and have one-night stands with men or women of dubious natures, I’ve never driven south of the border just for drugs or the heck of it, and I live with my parents.  This, folks, is the real life of a twenty-something Hollywood girl.  It’s rather boring.

So when I was having lunch in Riverside with a friend of mine and his car broke down, my second thought was, ‘Oh, good, now I have something to blog about.’

My first thought, of course, was, ‘Crap, it’s hot.  And I have about fifty pounds of my boss’s books that I really don’t want to have to carry all the way back to my car.’

Yesterday, on a mission to collect books from my boss’s office on the UCR campus, I met with my friends Noah and Noel for lunch.  That was the easy part.  The interesting part was riding in Noel’s car, lovingly christened ‘Deathmobile,’ and having the battery die just as we turned the corner.  Having left my car at my still-rented Riverside apartment, I was too far away to walk, especially with everything there was to carry.

So Noah and I pushed the car into the bike lane, Noel called Triple A, and we sat around waiting.  It was my first time pushing a car, and I was surprised at how easy it was – according to Noel it’s easy so long as the car is in neutral.  Good to know.  

Two people actually offered help.  The first was a girl who recognized Noah from around campus, identifying him as, ‘I know you, you’re Jewish!’ which, while accurate, was still an odd greeting.  She seemed genuinely disappointed that she couldn’t come to our rescue.

The second was a pizza delivery guy, whom I mistook for a taxi driver.  (Until the reappearance of my duffel bag, will I be seeing phantom cabs everywhere?)  Having already summoned the AAA, we declined his offer for a jump.  Still, we three native Californians were flabbergasted.  Southern Californians offering assistance to strangers in need?  Unheard of!  

I have the beginnings of a non-fiction story about my trip to Europe two years ago, and how pleasantly surprised I was to find that Europeans were friendly and eager to help, not the American-hating snobs I expected.  To quote from myself:

We had only been in London a few hours when my father tripped on the uneven sidewalk and fell, sending his brand-new SLR digital camera tumbling down the street.

When you trip in Los Angeles, you’re lucky if you get a polite inquiry as to your health.  Most often you are ignored.  Interaction between strangers is a weak smile, possibly a hello if the stranger in question doesn’t seem too threatening.  Los Angeles is a world on wheels, without any brakes.

So when my father fell, and the camera flew out of his hand, I didn’t expect much.  I assumed he’d get up, dust himself off, and we’d continue to the tube station.  Instead, two woman rushed to my father’s aid, full of concern and offers of assistance.  One of them picked up the camera, and asked if anything was broken.  Though my father insisted he was fine, that he wasn’t hurt, these two strange women – Londoners both, it seemed – wanted to make sure.  They genuinely seemed to care.  It was several minutes before we could convince them everything was alright and continue on.

Having once tripped and fallen on my ass in broad daylight on the sidewalk of a busy Riverside street without so much as a glance in my direction, I never gave Riversidonians much credit for compassion.  It’s always nice to be proven wrong where the depravity of humanity’s concerned.

I always love to spend time with Noah, who I’ve known since elementary school, and Noel, who guided me through my two years in the UCR Creative Writing department, always keeping me in the loop, or keeping me posted on the latest professor dish.  We talked about his wanting to start a literary journal, and I offered my assistance in whatever way he’d like.  If When we get that off the ground, I’ll be sure to write about it.


Quote of the Day:

A plaintive melody
Truncated symphony
An ocean’s garbled vomit on the shore,
Los Angeles, I’m yours

-The Decemberists, “Los Angeles, I’m Yours”

Link of the Day: The Academic Masochist – the blog of Noel Mariano: poet, teacher, friend.

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 15, 2008 3:19 pm

    You know, I love that song by the Decemberists.
    And really? That’s how she greeted Noah? I must have missed that.

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