Waiting for a Ride

snow bus

Thoughts on Offering Rides

I live in the car capital of America. The result is there is almost no public transportation.  There are no subways or trains. Busses, where they run, are late and far apart.  To get from my house to my office takes 20 minutes by car on a bad day.  It would take an hour and a half and cost about $5 by bus.

I reflect on this when I see people waiting for a bus.  In the middle of our cold snowy winter I saw a middle aged man lugging a suitcase to the bus stop on unplowed city sidewalks.  I wonder should I offer him a ride.  I don’t. Why?  A million excuses; I will be late, I might make it harder for him, what if he is dangerous. I am getting gas and a middle age woman asks if I could give her a ride to the next bus stop.  The bus she usually takes doesn’t run on Saturday.  At first I say no –she asks several others- then I look at the clouds – I tell her to hop in. Is it because she asked? Is it because she is female?

I reflect on this when a man approaches me at a gas station. He has a gas can and explains that his mother and wife are up the road where they ran out of gas. He asks for a ride.  I say no.  The woman behind me says no.  The man in the next car over says no.  He starts to walk up the street.  I don’t follow him.  The woman and I talk affirming for each other our decision to be unhelpful.  I have wondered what I could have done to prove to myself he was telling the truth.

An elderly woman stops me as I am leaving my subdivision to ask if there is a grocery store up the street.  Its cold outside and she doesn’t have any mittens.  I tell her Bushes is about a mile up on the right and I invite her to let me give her a ride.  She refuses.  Was she scared? Was enjoying the walk?

Perhaps you read about the local man who walks 21 miles each day to and from work.  He never missed a day at work. Thanks to crowd source funding he now has a new car, a new apartment and a restraining order to keep his ex-girlfriend away from him.  Would you have given him a ride?

Gender, ethnicity and age play a role in my reflections.  I don’t trust men as much as women.  I don’t trust youngsters as much as the elderly.  Every person who needed a ride was a person of color.  The elderly woman on the way to Bushes was Asian – maybe she was most afraid of my because I am younger and white.

We judge daily who to let into our lives.  We keep difference at a distance believing it will keep us safe.  I have the impulse to be more helpful than I am. What would happen if I just trusted?



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  • It’s interesting as I often have this same internal conflict. The main difference is that someone very close to me very recently had been robbed in a violent way forcing me to imagine far more vividly the bad things that could happen if you offer someone a ride that you don’t know. I also know that when folks are desperate, they do desperate things and often times folks needing rides have quite desperate stories. And then as you point out, you have to somehow make a judgement call and it’s those few seconds where race, age, gender, etc are the primary things you have to go by. The lack of quality public transit is so much more apparent in Detroit than in other places I have lived and so at least for now, I’ve decided that by encouraging improvement in public transit, I can hopefully be part of the longer term solution but I know that does nothing for all those struggling today.

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