Friday, January 27, 2012
I was riding my bike around the pond slowly, listening for birds. A man about my age walking past said, "What they're doing is really stupid." He pointed at the boys.
"Yes," I said. I squeezed the brakes.
"Someone should tell them to get off the ice," and then he continued walking. I think he was implying that I should tell them to get off the ice. I didn't do that. I didn't see why I should be the one to yell helpful advice at reckless teenagers. When has that ever worked?
The man continued walking to the far side of the pond, and from there he yelled at them. "Hey, get off the ice! That's really dangerous!"
The teenagers laughed at him, and yelled things back that at their nicest were sarcastic.
2. Today my kids were home from school with mild fevers. A virus is going around, Angry Bird I-Pad flu. Thus I was stuck at home, dumping a can of chicken soup into a saucepan when the phone rang. It was about twenty minutes past noon.
A unknown child's pleading voice: "I don't have my lunch and I'm really really hungry." A young girl, I guessed six to eight years old. Why did she phone me?
Me: "Where are you?"
Her: "At Such & Such School. I'm a student at Such & Such School."
I know where Such & Such School is. It's in the local district.
Me: "Okay, now why did you call me?"
Her: "Because my daddy didn't bring my lunch."
I'm kind of getting the picture. Someone at the school tried to call her home, but dialled the wrong number. They handed her the phone without telling her who they were calling. She didn't know that the person answering was supposed to be her dad. To her, the person answering was the Lunch Fairy.
Me: "What's your name?"
Me: "Amy, could you please give the phone to a grown-up?"
Her: "There aren't any grown-ups." Then she hung up.
Me: "No grown-ups?" My children raised their febrile heads from sofa cushions to look at me. I went upstairs to the find the school district website and the number for Such & Such School, to call and check if Amy had been connected with her lunch. I dialled.
Voice: "Such & Such School." This voice sounded like another young girl, scarcely older than Amy. Oh, right. It started to make more sense. Lunch hour. At many schools, grade 6 and 7 students are in charge of monitoring the office at lunch hour, no grown-ups around.
Me: "Hi. A little girl named Amy just called me from your school to tell me she doesn't have any lunch."
Voice: "Oh, I'm so sorry. I'm sorry we bothered you. We called the wrong number."
Me: "That's okay. I just want to make sure that someone is making sure that Amy is getting her lunch."
Voice: "We're just so sorry to bother you. I'm sorry..." She sounded mortified, very upset with herself.
Me: "It's okay, don't worry about that..."
She hung up.
I went downstairs to find both kids staring goggle-eyed at the television as the soup boiled over on the stove top.
Summation. Even in a world populated mostly by strangers, we are pretty much hard-wired to help. We're not always very good at it, but we try.