Just as fair warning, this post has absolutely nothing to do with reading, writing, publishing, or selling books.
It really doesn’t.
BUT- this post is about people, which in the end is what the other stuff is all about, right?
As a culture, I think we sometimes look at books and movies that have good people doing randomly good things as a convenient way out of a real problem. Something’s wrong? Oh, let’s have a good Samaritan type come along and totally fix it for them so we don’t have to put our hero/heroine in a trying and or time-consuming situation. Hero has to get across town in five minutes or the city hall is gonna blow but he has no car and no cash? Here, have the super-religious taxi man give him a free ride out of charity and basic good spirits.
…okay, that’s a lame example, but you get my drift. We look at basic good deeds, done without any sense of repayment or superiority, as fictional. We look for the ulterior motives, we shove the concept off to join the deus ex machina moments, and when we come across it in a book or movie, we call it unbelievable and scoff at the writers for taking the easy way out.
BUT THESE PEOPLE REALLY EXIST.
AND I HAVE PROOF!
I’ve got a friend named Amanda (Hi, Amanda!) who decided to throw a huge End of Harry Potter Party about two hours south of me. I requested off work, scraped together a costume that didn’t involve spending any money or digging out the clothes that don’t fit properly anymore, drove down, and had a blast. We all hung out at the hotel room before hand playing games and watching fan-made stuff and then the first Deathly Hallows, we got to the theater super early and got great seats, and then after the movie, we had s’mores by the pool and gushed about the movie for HOURS, and then there was even more fun afterwards. Seriously, didn’t go to bed until eight in the morning. We got up, we cleaned the rooms, got everything packed up and in the cars.
And then, as I was leaving the hotel parking lot, I noticed my car was driving kind of funny. The straight ways were okay, though something still felt off, but the turns were horrible. So, being a very tiny bit smarter about cars than I used to be, I decided to pull over before I got on the interstate and check it out. I pulled over into a McDonald’s in a not particularly fantastic part of town and got out to look around the car.
My front right tire was flat.
There’s nothing visibly wrong with it- except for, you know, being flat- but I don’t really trust my ability with or knowledge of cars to trust taking it to the gas station and just shoving air in it. Wouldn’t really know how much to put in it anyway. And it went from normal to flat over the course of the night, but no telling when it actually started leaking, so no guarantee it wouldn’t go flat again on the drive home. I know I have a spare, but the last time I had a flat tire (because someone forced me onto a curb that took a chunk of rubber with it), my brother swapped it out for the spare while I was at work.
(And put it on wrong in a way that would have killed me if that one lonely, brave little lug nut hadn’t clung to the bolt for dear life, but I’m still grateful that he took the time and effort to do it)
That presented a problem, though. I had no idea how to change the tire.
While I was getting my spare out of the trunk- a Herculean effort given the amount of crap I have sitting on top of the case- I did what any smart, resourceful, but clueless-in-the-ways-that-really-count girl would do: I called my brother. The other one, first, who used to work with cars for a living, except he was eight minutes away from starting previews for Harry Potter. And in Indiana, but I knew that much when I called him. He walked me through the steps, what all I would need to do (always loosen and tighten the lug nuts in a criss cross pattern, not around the circle!) and how to safely drive a 120 miles on a spare meant to go 50-90 at max.
When I hung up with him, a woman who had come out of McDonald’s asked if she could help, to which my answer was a fervent YES, OH MY GOD THANK YOU. Except…I couldn’t find my jack and she didn’t have one. Whoops. But she had offered, which was really nice of her.
So I called my other brother, the one who had changed out the tire the first time (never mind that he did it wrong) because hey, he used my jack, so he MUST know where it is, right? Eventually. I get out the jack, figure out how to work it, and then spend ten minutes down on my knees on the parking lot trying to figure out exactly where it is I’m supposed to put it.
Oh by the way, this is south Florida in July- it’s 110 in the shade and muggy as hell. I was DRIPPING, which just made everything that much more fun.
So as I’m kneeling down playing with the jack with the phone still glued to my ear, a guy walks up with his ten-year-old son and asks if he can help.
To which my answer was a fervent OH MY GOD THANK YOU YES.
I know nothing about this man. I know he calls his son Buddy, I know his wife is called Cam (she called while he was helping me to ask why he was running late for something), and I know under normal circumstances he’s the kind of guy I’d laugh at for a yuppie. Untucked polo shirt, dress loafers without socks, white pants, baked tan, that kind of thing. But he knelt down on the asphalt without any thought to those white pants and figured out where to put the jack and then- wonder of wonders- he didn’t just change the tire for me. He talked his way through each step for me AND his son- he taught both of us how to change a tire. I learned to loosen the lug nuts a little while it’s still on the ground so you have the leverage to really push at the wrench. I learned (or at least I think I learned, because I’m not really sure even now) which direction the spare goes on (it doesn’t actually say on the tire; I checked).
And then he wouldn’t even let me buy them drinks to cool off after we were broiling in the sun. He just said he was glad he could help and they headed on to wherever they were going. They hadn’t even been at the McDonald’s. They’d been someplae all the way across the parking lot, already running a little bit late, but they saw me digging the spare out of the back and came over to help.
GOOD PEOPLE REALLY DO EXIST.
They’re still out there! Just when you want to believe that everything sucks, that the world is out to screw you over and laugh at your pain, that there is in fact a cosmic spite button and all of its consequences are aimed directly at you…you find good people. People who just want to help others, who see something they can do to help a stranger and do it without any wish of repayment or renumeration or glory. People who are running late and have a kid in the car and are wearing white pants but still drive across a big-ass parking lot to help a girl who’s saying very unladylike things to her car.
I would have been screwed, otherwise. I don’t have AAA, I don’t know if my insurance covers flats and didn’t have a way to check, I have some kind of roadside assistance thing with my phone but no idea what it covers or what it costs, and I am FLAT BROKE. At that point I wouldn’t have cared if city hall blew up because I was never going to escape the McDonald’s parking lot.
And those are the people we write about. If it sometimes seems overly convenient, well, we don’t need the random help when everything’s going fine. People don’t stop and ask you if you need help if you don’t look like you need it. And true, his helping me change my tire didn’t prevent a bomb from going off in the city hall. But it helped me get HOME. And next time I have a flat tire, I know how to change it, because he taught me how to do it rather than just doing it for me. I don’t have to be the helpless female next time.
And I know that if I have a chance to do that favor for someone else, I will.
Good people really do exist. They’re not just a writerly affectation or a nostalgic throwback to a brighter day when people were chivalrous and ladies were escorted on gentlemen’s arms, they really do exist here and now. So if you encounter one of these good people: THANK THEM. Hug them, if it won’t creep them out. Tell them how absofrickinlutely amazing they are.
And then, if you really want to even the scales: be one of those good people for someone else.
Until next time~