Monday, July 31, 2006
A year ago, I had my own major Minor Car Accident, which on the surface appeared to be my fault as I was the one who made impact with another car. It's a convoluted story involving a third car that left the scene, but it was not, in fact, my fault, which makes sense given that I'm the World's Greatest Driver. Unfortunately, I had left proof of this fact in my other pants, and were it not for the actions of a very nice woman who had witnessed the accident and stayed to give a statement to the police, I may not have escaped a ticket and increased insurance rates so easily.
With this in mind, (and after making sure that the people involved in the accident had not been decapitated), I felt in my heart that waiting for the police to give my statement was the Right Thing To Do. A woman on the other side of the intersection had also witnessed the accident and agreed with me, so we took a position on the corner and waited. And sweated. And waited some more. While sweating.
Okay, granted: this is the big, bad city where violent crime is (especially lately) rampant, and people deal lots of drugs and shoot lots of guns and steal lots of merchandise and are generally bastards in large numbers. And granted: my accident happened in the Delaware suburbs where it was quite possibly the most exciting thing that had transpired all day, if not all month. But I would think, in the middle of a Monday morning, perhaps the police officer should have arrived a wee bit sooner than 40 minutes after the accident. But she was probably saving a baby from being raped in a burning building, and I'm being unfair.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. The first official-type people to arrive on the scene were two very tired paramedics. I am reluctant to make fun of paramedics, given that if I ever needed one someday, that would not be a moment when I would enjoy being bitten in the ass by karma. I guess these guys drove up, saw that it was a Minor Accident and that no one was hurt, and were just annoyed that they had to turn off the air conditioning in the ambulance while they waited for the police to arrive, something for which I cannot blame them. In fact, it is so damn hot out that I debated faking some Lohan-esque wooziness myself just so I could lay down inside the cool and drug-equipped vehicle, but given that I was knee-deep in the Right Thing To Do, I decided against it.
Anyway, the paramedics finished checking out the people from the accident and then stood around waiting. My fellow witness and I looked at each other, unsure of what action we were to take. Clearly, strangely, these guys did not immediately recognize us as the paragons of virtue we were, and we would have to make ourselves known. The woman told one of the EMT's that we had seen the accident and asked if we should wait to give a statement to the police when they arrived.
Upon hearing this, the paramedic wept with joy at having encountered two Good Samaritans in a world filled with bloodshed and sorrow, and he told us that as soon as we had finished giving our statements, we would be escorted to City Hall where the Mayor would honor us with a concert from the Philadelphia Boys Choir and the presentation of two glistening Medals of Honor.
Actually, he shrugged, laughed, and said "Well, no one can stop you from talking to the police if you want to. Do whatever you want." And then he climbed back into the front seat of the ambulance and closed his eyes.
So, after my fellow witness reassured me that she was sure the paramedic just didn't want to display any bias toward either party in the accident by encouraging us to give a statement, (yeah, totally plausible), we again went back to waiting for the police officer.
As stated, she arrived 40 minutes after the accident, pulled her car to the side of the road, stepped out into the heat and yawned. Not to keep holding up my own accident as the paradigm against which all others should be measured, but the police officers who responded in my case were overly serious, took a very long time to take everyone's statement, and wore imposing yet silly hats. This woman wrapped up her business in about 7 minutes and had returned to her car to either write up the accident report or to find out where the nearest smoothie place was on her GPS. Again, the other witness and I were confused. Should we go tap on her window and tell her who we are? Should we just leave? No, we decided this was the Right Thing To Do, and it had to be seen through to its end.
We walked over to her car and she rolled down her window. The other witness told her who we were and did she want our statements? She replied, exactly as the exhausted paramedic before her had, that we could "do whatever you want." So we gave our names and phone numbers, told her what we had seen, which she paraphrased in a single sentence on her little pad, and that was it. The other witness and I looked at each other, sighed, and exchanged a "have a nice day" before leaving the intersection and going about our business.
So this is the thing, Dear Reader, I know that staying to give my statement was, all sarcasm aside, the right course of action. Had I not done so, I know I would have spent the rest of the day, (okay, the rest of the year), feeling guilty and like I had finally gathered enough evidence to support my darkest fears of being a bad person. And, honestly, I didn't expect the police or paramedics, to melt with appreciation at my willingness to give up part of my morning to help perfect strangers, but I would have liked something other than a "do whatever you want."
"Do whatever you want" is what you say to your boyfriend when he asks you if he can go to a strip club, and you know you'd be a raging bitch in the court of modern public opinion if you flatly refused, but you really don't want him to go and are pissed off that he asked you in the first place. "Do whatever you want" is what you say to a little kid who insists on doing something you know is wrong -- like, say, mixing tuna salad and grape jelly -- but you know that they have to make the mistake themselves in order to learn the lesson. "Do whatever you want" is not, on the other hand, what you say to people who give a damn about being civil, responsible human beings. And do you know why you don't say it to those people? Because those people may very well turn around and, realizing that the Right Thing To Do is a pain in the ass, join the legion of rude, mean, self-absorbed dickheads that make up the majority of the world's population.
Okay, I know -- you don't do the right thing in order to be praised for it, you do it because it's right. It's the tautology of decency, and it usually sucks. And I'm sure, were I to see another accident, I'd do the same thing I did today, but hopefully in the future I won't be disappointed by the lack of acknowledgment I am bound to receive. Hopefully, it's possible to be both cynical and altruistic at the same time. I'll let you know how it works out.
Also, if you're wondering why I'm not mad at the guy in the pickup truck for not thanking me for waiting around to back up his innocence, well, I don't really know why I'm cutting him so much more slack than I am the paramedics or the police officer. I guess it's because he was having a shitty day. Or maybe it's because, much like being cynical and altruistic at the same time, I am also someone who simultaneously rebels against authority while wishing to avoid confrontation. That, and cops are assholes.
Ah, and on the subject of not posting -- yeah, I know. Thanks to everyone who's asked me to post more, it honestly makes me feel really good. And I would say that henceforth I will make every effort to post more often, but we'd all know that I was full of stinky, stinky shit. I promise, though, that I'm not abandoning the blog and will sincerely try, or at least think about trying, to post more frequently. Please don't remove me from your Bookmarks and put Stuff on my Cat in my place. There's room in this world for both of us.