Thursday, February 14, 2013

Giving a Ride to a Stranger

My student life was about the same the following spring. Spring really gave me a sense of renewal. All kinds of spring flowers appeared in yards. Occasionally it snowed too; it became warmer and warmer. One Friday night after my work at the restaurant, Mr. and Mrs. Huang drove me back to my apartment. It was about 12:30 at night, and light snow was falling. While we were driving along, we noticed a young woman with very long loose hair and a very thin dress standing on the road waving to us. Her pale white dress and her light hair were blowing with the chilly wind and light snow. With dim streetlights in the background as we approached, she looked like a ghost from the movies.
     She tried to stop us, so we stopped. She looked very pale and thin. Her hair was long and messy. She wanted us to give her a ride. Mr. and Mrs. Huang then let her in the car, and asked her where her home was. Instead of going forward, she asked us to turn around the other way. We were wondering why she didn’t stop cars going in the other direction. Mr. Huang turned around the car. Instead of telling us where her home was, she asked us whether we were Chinese or Japanese and whether we smoked or not. She was trying to show us some kind of cigarettes. We told her that we didn’t smoke but she still persisted asking if we noticed any difference between our cigarettes and hers. I smelled alcohol and smoke from her breath; she kept talking. I said, “we are not interested in your cigarettes. None of us smokes. If you don’t tell us where you live, we will stop and let you out.” Then she said, “a few more blocks.” I said, “you don’t have a car?” She said, “no, but my boyfriend has one; he usually gives me a ride.” I said, “you don’t look old, but you look very pale and thin. You really should take better care of yourself.” She said, “Yes, I am trying. You are all so nice, why don’t you drop me off in front of the bar that is coming up.” I was shocked. “A bar? Where is your home? You are not going home? It is so late already.” She said, “I will go home later with my friend there. Thank you very much.” And she kept saying, “you are so nice. Thank you. Thank you” until she finally got out of the car and went into the bar.
     The next day, I told the story to my office mate Porter. He was so shocked that we picked her up and gave her a ride. He didn’t explain much. He said very seriously, “you could have ended up in big trouble. Never, never give a ride to a stranger, especially that late at night.” I think she was about my age, her lonely appearance on the street still in my mind every now and then. There was sadness in her eyes that I will never forget. I wish there were places for people to go, places to cover basic needs so confused or lost people could stay there without any questions until they were ready to be productive or self-sufficient again.