Cautiously Helpful

Posted on Thursday, February 24, 2011 by Alex R. Cronk-Young

As I climbed down into the ditch to shovel away the snow packed up under my car so as to hopefully drive away without sliding further in, a man in a truck pulls into the driveway across the street and gets out. I assume he is the owner of the house I was delivering the paper to.

"Hey. I'm kind of in a precarious situation here with your metal mailbox." I say as he walks up.

"Oh, it's not mine. I just stopped to help." he replies.

"Oh great. Well, I've got a tow strap, I think you can pull me away from the mailbox if we hook it up there on the passenger side."

"Yeah...have you hooked it up before?" he asks awkwardly.

"Yeah, plenty of times." I say.

"Could you hook it up then?"

I've become very accustomed to that kind of exchange. Doing papers in Michigan means I've gotten stuck countless times throughout the years. It's why I carry a tow strap with me in my trunk. The first time a helpful stranger stopped to give me a hand, that back and forth left me a little confused. I didn't have my own tow strap at that point in time, and didn't have the first clue about where would be the best place to hook one. He'd stopped because he was in a truck and had his own tow strap. Surely he must have a better idea of where to hook one up, so why was he so adamant that I do it myself?

After I fumbled around and found someplace I could wrap it around the frame, it struck me. He was worried about getting sued if it had somehow damaged my car. Well, that got must have been a tad too paranoid for his own good I thought, and scoffed it off.

It didn't stop with him though. Every single person that has ever stopped to help pull me out of a snowbank has made the same demand. Not that I'd expect they lay down on the ground and hook it up themselves when I'm the one that needs help, but they always lead off with that request. If I didn't know any better, I'd swear that everyone was put through a strict course upon purchasing a truck where it is pounded into their heads to never hook up a tow strap to someone else's car.

The more likely scenario is that our society has made everyone scared shitless of being sued. The kind stranger stopping to help someone in need on the side of the road is often rewarded with a big fat lawsuit when the flimsy plastic body of the needy person's car is cracked in the process. It's sad, really. Even the few helpful people still out there have to be cautious about it.

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