Sometimes I Disappoint Myself

It was the end of a long day.

I had worked a fourteen hour shift. The Mother of Five worked also. My shift ended at 9pm, hers ended at 9:30pm. She had texted me earlier that day saying she had to do some last minute grocery shopping after work. Since I pass her workplace on my way home I decided to stop and help her out.

We did our grocery shopping at the Wal-Mart next door to her workplace. Afterwards we headed back out to the parking lot and began loading up our trunks. It was late. Late, dark, and cold.

As I was loading my trunk I thought I heard a very fait (almost mousy) voice saying "excuse me sir". I looked behind me and saw nothing. I went back to loading up my trunk, and again heard a faint "excuse me sir". I looked up over the trunk lid and noticed a small woman (I suspect she was Somali). She was dressed in traditional hijab. She was quite petite and appeared young,. I noticed she had her diverted her gaze downwards as she tried to get my attention.

I asked her if she was talking to me. Again, in a very timid voice (while not looking me directly in the eye) she asked if I had "cables" to help her start her car. (I had assumed she referred to "jumper cables" and that her car's battery was dead.) She pointed over to a vehicle that had another woman (also dressed in hijab) one row away from where I was parked. Unfortunately, I did not. I had taken them out to make room in my trunk a couple of weeks back and have since forgotten to return them. I apologized and said I did not. I explained to her that I normally do, but I had removed them a few days prior, and had not returned them. I could see the disappointment in her face. I watched her plight as I finished loading up my groceries, and finally headed out. She asked one other man who appeared to ignore her as he kept walking past her - and another woman who did briefly stop, but continued to her car and left without helping her.

I could not help but wonder…

I wondered what this young woman was thinking. I wondered if she was afraid to approach me for help. I wondered if she thought I was lying to her to avoid helping her. I wondered if she thought I may have been "stereotyping" her as a woman - as a person of a different race - as a person of a different faith. I wondered if she thought of me as just another "westerner", as someone would not help her because I may have stereotyped her. (Now am I stereotyping her for stereotyping me?) I also wondered if it is possible that I am reading way more into this. It may be just as likely that they thought nothing more of my inability to help them as just that… An honest answer.

I have to admit… This morning I am feeling badly. I realized that I drove off leaving these poor women standing alone in the parking lot of Wal-Mart (which in itself can be frightening), in the cold, in the dark, dressed in a manner that (I suspect) would cause some people to not want to help them, and with a disabled car. I witnessed at least two other people (at best) unable to help them or (at worst) ignore their plea for help.

Looking back, I regret not having done more. If nothing else, even though I did not have the cables, I could have (SHOULD HAVE) stayed with them and tried to help them locate someone who would have been willing and able to assist them.

1 comment:

  1. I wouldn't beat myself up over it. I'm sure that your suspicions are just paranoia. I've been in need of jumper cables many times and have gone sometimes an hour before locatings someone who could help. It happens, I just automatically assume, "hey I don't have cables, so I can't expect the next person to" I understand it's a bit different because they were woman and dressed in what ignorant people my consider frightening, but still you would have helped if you could and that should be enough to get you to sleep at night.

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