PAGE THREE Random Acts

Gaithersburg Motorists: 'I Brake for Bat-Watchers'

(Merlin D. Tuttle - AP)
Wednesday, August 20, 2008

RANDOM ACTS Sometimes a kindness means someone else going out of his way, and other times it might simply mean doing nothing at all.

Last summer, I stepped out of my front door for my daily walk. It was dusk and I was delighted to find a cool, extraordinary evening. I walked along a busy neighborhood road, towards the sunset. The western sky was marbled with pinks and oranges. Suddenly, something flitted overhead. It took me a few seconds to realize that the flitter was a bat. I watched the bat as it ascended higher and higher. It eventually joined dozens of other bats apparently feasting on a cache of insects.

The bats seemed to be engaged in a synchronized aerobic routine, part hip-hop, zumba and barn dance. The vividness and beauty of the bats' performance enraptured me. I watched the entrancing scene for at least five minutes, until the bats dispersed. It was time to return to both my walk and my senses.

When I finally looked down, I was appalled to discover that I was standing in the middle of the road. There were at least four cars lined up in each direction, all patiently waiting for me to get out of the way. I quickly, and very sheepishly, moved to the side of the road. As the drivers passed me, they curiously studied me in their side mirrors. I am sure the drivers could not have seen the bats and had no idea why I was oblivious to the traffic jam that I had created.

But not a single driver honked or complained in any way. Thank you, drivers, for allowing me to peacefully enjoy the wondrous sight of bats dancing in the twilight.

-- Ellen Ann Callahan, Gaithersburg

I had placed my travel cup of coffee and my purse on my car roof while I finagled my dogs into the car for a vet appointment. I pulled out of my driveway, opened the skylight and, when I started to slow for a stop sign, the coffee cup sloshed into the car, spilling coffee over everything. I was too busy mopping up coffee to remember the purse.

While driving down Columbia Pike, a man driving a small silver car beeped his horn at me and asked if I had a black purse. He said it fell off back there. So I turned the car around and drove slowly back looking along the road and pedestrians in case anyone had picked it up. The purse was nowhere to be found. All I could think was the work it would take to cancel my credit card and replace my license and health card.

I went all the way back to the turn to my house. Still no luck. I started to drive back toward the vet. I was driving slowly and realized that a police car was pulling up behind me. After a moment of panic due to my strange driving, I thought that he might have seen my purse. Not a chance. But then there was a beep from the same driver who had flagged me many, many blocks up the street.

I pulled into a parking lot, and he pulled up beside and handed me my purse! He said it had been run over by a few cars. Everything was still in there! I thanked him profusely. But I was so happy to get it back, I didn't even think to get his name or offer a cash reward. Fortunately, at the next long light, I put my car in park and scrambled back to his car window. I tried to offer him some cash, but he looked deeply offended and said there was no need.

That driver took the time to get my attention, followed me back to make sure I picked it up, must have gone out into traffic to pick up my purse and then made sure to get it to me. Many, many thanks to that wonderful man!

-- Stef Pryor, Arlington

© 2008 The Washington Post Company