I drive a sweet van. A GMC Safari that my mom has driven from Florida to the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula and back a few times. She also drove it to California, Ohio, the grocery store and elsewhere. It is silver with tinted windows, and I know I look good behind the wheel. Anybody would. Most of the time my bike is in the back, and maybe some golf clubs, yoga mats, and a dozen empty water bottles. I call it the mobile toy-box. Some people call it the Turtle or the Shovel. This weekend it will be an art collection vehicle in New Orleans for some friends. It will return full of glitter, scraps of fabric, and coffee cups. It makes me happy to loan it to my friends who dare to do great things like make art.

What does not make me happy about it is driving around town looking at my Tallahassee neighbors standing in the heat waiting for the buses, which can take 45 minutes in some parts of town. I don’t like passing people by who are walking my way on long, two lane roads peppered with decomposing opossum and sand-spurs. The conversation in my head goes something like this;

It sure looks hot out there. Those people are hating it, and that old man looks like he might fold right over his walker and pass out. I could load them all up and take them wherever they need to go. People will think that is weird, and it will likely scare them, or make them feel suspicious. I better just keep on rolling.

That’s what I do, I keep on rolling. And yet I remember standing at a border crossing on the line between Slovenia and Austria in the middle of the night, desperate for a ride to catch the Croatian bus that abandoned me when I went to the bathroom in the station. Cramped by intestinal disease, dizzy from a stomach emptied by violent retching and diarrhea, my foot bandaged and bloody with 14 stitches received the day before, I had a few seconds to beg in a foreign language to each passing car to take me with them. Hundreds passed me within the first hour. A blue mini-van driven by a woman with blonde hair and tired eyes looked at me and turned to an elderly gentleman in the backseat and he nodded. A toddler was buckled into the bench seat next to the man.

She waved me around to the passenger seat.

What to do?


11 Responses to Boundaries

  1. Man, I’ve done it. Stopped in the rain and asked a woman if she wanted a ride. She did.
    If you’ve got the time, might as well pull over if your heart tells you it’s the right thing to do.

  2. I’m trying to find the article, but in several cities, folks use the hitchhikers thumb signal at bus-stops, and lots of people stop to give rides around town, to work, etc. ’cause the bus system sucks, there…like here.

    I saw a mother and a new-born infant waiting in the 110 deg. heat index, at the stop by TMH yesterday. I really should have given them a ride. I’m driving around in a fuckin RV for Gods sake. Granted, I only drive it once a week when not road-trippin’. For instance, I’m driving it down to Bill Os house today for the resumation of the weekly forest ride.

  3. We need some kind of good Samaritan magnet to identify us as “The People’s Cars.” I’m going to pretend I didn’t see that bit about the Forest Ride starting up today. Heat don’t play.

  4. An Obama sticker on the van will go a long way to letting people know we’re The People’s Cars, I think. Once I was pulling a 5×8 trailer with our beloved Safari and got myself in a very tight spot, unable to maneuver it to turn around, and in a very “shady” section of an old motel. I know that bumper stick is what got two guys to come help me by turning it around for me. We all just know, ya know?

  5. I’ve done it a couple of times. I saw an old man with crazy Don King hair, walking down Tharpe in a psycho thunderstorm. I turned around and offered a ride, but like you said, I think I scared him. He said he was good, and continued on.

    Another time, the guys needing a ride set off my alarm bells. I went for it anyway, figuring I’d put it in God’s hands, so to speak. Gotta die of something, right? I’m telling the story now, so obviously, it worked out.

  6. You can always ask, but the critical thought process resides with the walker, and they will make an important decision.
    Just don’t ask them to help you move a couch, at night, with a cast on.

  7. I’ve been on both sides of this. I’ve been asked if I need a ride, when my bike’s flatted on the highway. This, I’ve appreciated. And I have been the driver who’s thought like you, Juancho- wondering if I should help someone who look like they need a lift and debating in my mind how they’d take it if I rolled down the window. I mean, some people seem creeped out a little just by getting asked directions, let alone asking them if they need a ride. So, I don’t know.

    Instincts work either way, I guess.

  8. I’m not from the land of extreme heat, but tired walkers are everywhere. Yet I’ve never offered. Problem is, I grew up in NYC, where we learned to trust no one and assume everything.

    I still manage to feel okay at the end of the day. Suffering is everywhere, and I do more than one person’s share to alleviate it.