Enabling Good Dialogue

, , , , , , | Friendly | January 17, 2018

(I am at the hospital to see my dying grandfather when I take an elevator alongside a disabled veteran who is walking on two prosthetic legs. I am impulsive by nature, and find that humor cheers me up greatly, so I ask the question that immediately comes to my mind.)

Me: “I have an uncle who has one leg missing and no eyesight. Would you rather two missing legs or one missing leg and no eyesight?”

Veteran: *awkward chuckle* “Uh… neither!”

(We both laugh.)

Veteran: “But in all seriousness, I prefer having my eyes over having a foot back.”

(My aunt and sister thought I was crazy and rude, but I assured them that every person I have met with a long-term disability has felt best about it when people don’t tiptoe around it or pretend it doesn’t make a difference in their life. My blunt manner, combined with the amused bewilderment people get from my openness to interactions with strangers, seems to me to be a good way to cheer people up, especially when they may have felt the grimness of visiting the ICU, which is where they headed.)

Politeness Gets You Donuts And Wi-Fi

, , , , | Right | January 17, 2018

(I am the customer. I’ve been having the worst week ever, fighting with my cable company to get Internet in my new place, and for some reason I have to be online to activate my online access! It’s pretty late when I come into what I hope is a 24-hour coffee shop with Wi-Fi.)

Me: “Hey, what time does the lobby close?”

Barista: *looks worried* “Um, we close in about ten minutes.”

Me: “Oh, man. Oh, that figures.”

Barista: “Why?”

Me: “I was hoping to get online. I don’t have Internet and I need to handle some stuff.”

Barista: “Well, if you don’t mind us listening to music really loud, we’ll be here until 10:30. You’re welcome to stay.”

Me: “Are you sure? I don’t want to hang you guys up.”

Barista: “It’s no problem; don’t worry about it!”

(Not only was I able to get through to the online services and activate my Internet, but the baristas gave me free doughnuts when they cleaned out the cases! Way to make the worst week ever turn into the best night! Thanks, guys!)

Guardian Angel: Roadside Assistance

, , , , | Hopeless | January 13, 2018

(I am driving along a country road in unusually cold and snowy weather when I skid on a patch of ice and crash through a hedge. I have my two kids in the car with me, and we are unhurt, but pretty shaken up. We get out of the car and, sure enough, it is utterly stuck. The weather is very, very cold, it is starting to get dark, and we aren’t dressed for it. I try to phone my husband to get him to come and rescue us, but there is no reply. I decide to ring the rescue service, but I know they’ll take an hour or so to get there. Just as I am starting to get really worried, a van drives past, reverses, and pulls up alongside us. I tense up, realising we are pretty vulnerable, out there in the middle of nowhere. A tall, muscular-looking woman wearing muddy manual labour clothing gets out and comes over to us. She gives us a cheerful smile, as if seeing us made her day.)

Woman: “I’ve got some ropes in the van; would you like me to haul you out?”

Me: “Oh, yes, please, if you could!”

Woman: “Are you all okay? Anybody hurt?”

Me: “No, we’re fine.”

Woman: *to my kids* “I bet you’re cold, though. Hang on…”

(She goes and rummaged in her cabin and gets out two fluffy blankets with cute cartoon owls on them. She kneels down — in the snow! — and talks to my kids.)

Woman: “These are for you, if you want them.”

(My son and daughter, a bit shocked and shy about this strange woman, look at me, and I nod. They take the blankets gratefully and wrap themselves up in them.)

Woman: “Right, let’s get you out.”

(She quickly gets our car roped up to her van and easily pulls it backwards out of the hedge and back onto the road. It is such a huge relief when I am able to start the engine successfully.)

Woman: “Have you got far to go?”

Me: “We’re just going to [Nearby Town].”

Woman: “Is it okay if I escort you? Just to make sure your car isn’t damaged?”

Me: “Uh, yes, please.”

Woman: “Okay, I was heading that way, anyway. I’ll follow you.”

(Sure enough, the car was fine, and she waved goodbye when we got into town. What I really regret, and why I’m writing this, is that I never said, “Thank you.” I was too shaken up by the whole thing. So, if you’re reading this, mysterious lady, many thanks; you might have saved our lives. My daughter is now in her teens and still has the blanket with the owls on it. She says her guardian angel gave it to her.)

Responsibility Gives You A Direct Route To Your Destination

, , , , | Hopeless | January 11, 2018

(I’m the idiot in this story. I oversleep and am therefore in a rush all morning. As soon as I’m dressed, I rush to the bus stop where a bus is waiting. There are two different bus companies that use that stop, and their colour schemes are very similar. I’m in such a panic that I scurry onto the bus without really looking at what service it is and quickly whip out my pass. I show it to the driver and then start moving to a seat.)

Driver: “Hold on! Let me see that again!”

(I quickly step back and show him my pass. I know it hasn’t expired yet, and I figure the driver just wants to check everything.)

Driver: “You can’t use this here.”

Me: “But it’s good for another two weeks.”

Driver: “No, I mean you can’t use this on this bus. That’s a [Bus Company #1] pass. This is a [Bus Company #2] service.”

Me: “Oh, I’m so sorry! I was in such a rush that I didn’t even realise this was the wrong bus. I’m sorry I wasted your time.”

(I go to get off the bus when the driver waves at me, indicating I should sit down.)

Driver: “Go and take a seat.”

Me: “But… this is the wrong bus.”

Driver: “You’re the first customer I’ve had in a long time that has apologised and taken responsibility for your mistake, rather than shout at me or claim it’s my fault. You can have this ride on me. But just this once.”

(I was super embarrassed, but grateful for the driver’s kindness, especially when it was my fault — both for sleeping in and for not checking the bus before I got on. Because of him, I was able to get to work on time. Now, even if I’m in a rush, I always double-check the buses.)

Driving Home The Kindness, Part 14

, , , | Hopeless | January 7, 2018

(I am a medical student starting my fieldwork. My site is a 45-minute drive away from my apartment, and I am nervous because my supervisor has already attacked my intelligence and insulted me in front of a patient. She’s also insisted I need a specific certification, costing me $600 on my very limited student budget. I have severe driving anxiety due to an abusive situation I escaped. I am driving through heavy rain to get to fieldwork, and when I go to turn onto the highway, my wheel jerks from my hands and I realize I am hydroplaning! I manage to not hit the light-post, but my car is stuck and mud-covered, and I am going nowhere. I’m scared, and I immediately start having a panic attack, both from the near miss and from contemplating what this could cost on my limited budget. Crying and shaking, I leave a message for my instructor, then try to remember how to call my insurance, who tell me they will take upwards of an hour to get to me since it’s not an emergency. Then, I notice a truck pulling off near me and the driver waving at me. I roll down my window.)

Man #1: “Are you okay?”

Me: “Yes, b-but I’m stuck. I can’t get out.”

Man #1: “I have a car shop nearby. I’ll go get my chain. You sure you’re okay?”

Me: *surprised, still crying* “A-Are you sure? You don’t have to. I’m o-okay, just scared and late for w-work.”

Man #1: “Yeah, I’m sure. It’s like five minutes away. You sit tight.”

(He drives off. Another truck stops about three minutes later and what looks like a man my age and his father hop out.)

Man #2: “Are you all right, miss?”

Me: “Yes, j-just stuck.”

Man #3: “Can we call you a tow?”

Me: “A man’s g-gone to get his chain to g-get me out.”

(They stayed with me, helping me get over to the side of the road safely. When the man arrived with his chain, they actually turned to block the on-ramp so no one would get hit while the first guy chained my car to his and pulled my car out of the rut it was stuck in. I walked around the car, and nothing was damaged! It was just very dirty, and some grass was stuck in the bumper. The whole time, the men kept checking on me, making sure I was okay, and offering to get me somewhere safe. By the time I got back in my car, I wasn’t crying anymore, and I felt a lot safer. Thankfully, I got to my fieldwork only about thirty minutes late, and I wasn’t forced to eat ramen that week. Thank you to the very kind gentlemen who stopped for a scared student, and were so gentle interacting with me.)



Driving Home The Kindness, Part 13

Driving Home The Kindness, Part 12

Driving Home The Kindness, Part 11

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