Friday, July 9, 2010

Helping out

So yesterday, when the boy and I were picking the usual kilogram of mulberries, we heard a loud metallic scraping sound from the road. I dispatched him to see what had happened, and he ran back and reported to me that "Some old dude got his car stuck in the ditch." Now if you are not familiar with the Japanese version of a ditch, it is not a friendly place like an American ditch. It is a concrete U trench, 40cm x 40cm. Wide enough to fit your tire into and leave it hanging while the car body rests on the road.
Also, it is very attractive to Canadians walking at night, but that is another story, best told by my good friend Al.
So, back to the "old dude in the ditch." I walked down, and the flustered old guy immediately started to explain how it had happened. I assured him that "Hey, it happens." but secretly wondered how he had so completely driven the car into the ditch on a perfectly straight, wide (for Japan that is), dry road in broad daylight. At any rate, he took some blocks of wood and put them under the rear tire. Which was strange because it was a front wheel drive car. Then a few workmen driving by stopped to help, and we tried to lift the car (a subcompact) out of the ditch. That didn't work either. I never realized how much non structural sheet metal and plastic there is on a subcompact. Nothing to grab on to. So I decided to get a log, insert it under the front wheel, which was just hanging there in space, and drive a piece of firewood under the log. Thereby jacking up the car slightly, and creating a ramp out of the ditch for the drive wheel. Thank you Mr. Leiseth, MLHS Physics teacher 1990!
The car zoomed out of the ditch with a hideous scraping of steel on cement, and the workmen jumped into their cars and sped off. I had no car to jump into, since it was in front of my house. The old guy looked so embarrassed, happy, and troubled at the same time. I didn't know what to do, so I shook his hand and said goodbye. Then he gave the boy, who had been watching from the sidelines, a 500 yen coin.
My first opinion was to refuse it- I was only doing what decent people do, helping someone out when they needed it. Also, why me and not the other guys who had helped? But then I saw a bit of dignity return to the old guy. And I realized that refusing the gift would actually hurt his pride even more. He wanted desperately to do something to pay back the favor. Even though we didn't ask for it, didn't particularly want it, it felt like the right thing to take it.
We will probably give it to charity, or buy a gift for someone who has helped us. Keep the good karma going around.

What do you think? Were we right to take it?

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