It was the unlikeliest of combinations – a young black man and an old white man, brought together by circumstances, at one of the busiest intersections in Madison: Park Street and the Beltline. I had the dogs loaded into my gas-sucking foreign-made SUV yesterday afternoon and was headed to the South Side Branch of the Post Office when the situation unfolded.
As we pulled off the westbound Beltline on the newly-reconfigured northbound Park Street exit ramp, at the bottom of the small hill was a huge GMC Acadia, doing about one mile an hour, and right behind it – in front of me – was a newer Chevy Monte Carlo. The driver’s side door of the Acadia opened, and a white-haired elderly gentleman popped his head out, bent down from the driver’s seat, and looked under the big SUV – while it was still headed toward the traffic signal about 20 feet ahead.
This looked like trouble.
The SUV came to a dead stop, and the elderly gentleman got out of it, looking confused. The young man in the Monte Carlo ahead of me swung to the left, stopped behind the SUV, put on his 4-way flashers and got out of his car and approached the elderly man. A short conversation took place. I pulled up behind the two vehicles and ran my window down.
The young man made eye contact with me – as traffic at one of the city’s busiest and most dangerous intersections began to back up – and I said “everything OK there?” He came up to my SUV and said “yah, the guy’s kinda confused. I think he’s out of gas.” I said “I’m not in a hurry – you want me to deal with this?” The young man said “no, I got this – I just got laid off and I’m not going anywhere in particular. I’ll call him a tow truck” and pulled out his cell phone.
I said “mighty neighborly of you” and he let out a small laugh. He said “let me get traffic for you and you can pull around me and be on your way. By the way, nice dogs.” I said “thanks….good luck on the job thing.”
This young man should be working for somebody in a position of responsibility. He seems a pretty sharp and smart young fellow, and I hope somebody gives him a chance. He knows how to assess and take charge of a situation. It’s hard to find folks like that. It’s brutal out there, but I hope he lands another job soon. Merry Christmas, stranger.