Let's say your car dies at a stoplight in Arlington, and you're a woman who's by herself. It doesn't take long for the morning rush-hour honkers behind you to get busy -- or for you to get worried.
You have no cellular phone because you recently gave yours up. You can't push the car to the side of the street because that takes more muscles than you possess. Besides, isn't this Washington, D.C., where man's unwillingness to help his fellow man is legendary?
Sallye Broome, of Arlington, is now a deep believer in man's kindness, and in the range of humanity that proves the point. What happened to her at the corner of Military Road and Lorcom Lane the morning of Oct. 26 is truly extraordinary. A rainbow coalition rescue gang sprang into action in a way that would warm even the most jaded heart.
Sallye's car hadn't been dead for more than a few seconds when a man stopped and offered help. He pushed Sallye's car to the shoulder and offered her his cell phone. She called AAA emergency road service. The operator said it would be 90 minutes before a tow truck could come. (Some things never change.)
So Sallye hunkered down to wait. After a couple of minutes, it occurred to her that she should raise the car's hood, as a warning to traffic approaching from behind. But this was her son's car, and she couldn't figure out how to free the latch.
Presto -- a second passing motorist stopped and offered help. She found the safety catch and got the job done in a jiffy. As the two women were lifting the hood, a third motorist stopped. Then a fourth. Then a fifth.
On it went for an hour and a half -- driver after driver offering to do whatever Sallye needed to get going again. By the time the tow truck arrived (after exactly 90 minutes, believe it or not), 25 drivers had stopped to see if all was well, or if they could help make it well-er.
"I am amazed at this, and I am grateful to every single person who offered to help," Sallye says.
Here's the scorecard she compiled as she sat beside the road that morning:
Twelve men stopped. So did 12 women. So did one couple.
Two stoppers drove sports cars. Two drove Saabs. Four drove Jeep Cherokees. Two drove minivans. One drove a Lexus. One drove Arlington County Fire Engine No. 103.
As for those who didn't stop . . .
"At least half a dozen Volvo station wagons drove by -- and not one even looked my way," Sallye reports. She says she "used to drive a Volvo myself. Hmmm."
Her son's car is now fixed. So is Sallye's attitude. She says she won't be quite so impatient the next time she's trapped behind a stalled car, even if she's late for work. Good advice for all of us.
Local cashiers are still driving me mad with a sloppy habit most of them seem to have adopted.
If you have both bills and change coming back after a purchase, cashiers will plop the bills into your hand. Then they'll quickly plop the change on top of the bills -- too quickly for you to remove the bills and put them away.
If you don't carry bills and change in the same place (who does?), you have to stand there like a cluck as you remove the change from atop the bills and put it away. The people behind you in line love this, of course.
How to cure cashiers of this habit? I recommended not sticking out your hand. This will force cashiers to double-clutch, and will give you a chance to grab the bills first, then the change, or the other way around.
But Gina Ponticelli, of Potomac Falls, Va., may have the best idea of all.
"What happened to the days of counting back change?" she asks. If cashiers did this, you'd get change first, and you could safely stow it before all those bills came flying at you.
Maybe her idea will "wake up a few cashiers out there," Gina says. It couldn't come too soon.
It's "just a thought," says Todd Rich. But it's a thought that's right on the button.
Todd says he often encounters "sport utility strollers." He describes them as "the ones built to carry two children and their clothes, toys, snacks, etc., for a week."
"Why is it," he asks, that these strollers "never seem to have a child in them? Either the parent is carrying a child -- and often steering the stroller with one hand -- or the child's toddling along beside the stroller."
Julie Shubin saw it a couple of Sunday afternoons ago, on that stretch of George Washington Memorial Parkway just north of Mount Vernon.
A mother was driving erratically. When Julie peered into the car to see why, she noticed a "very young child" in the front seat. The child was in a car seat (thank heaven for small favors). But the mother still needed a few extra doses of common sense.
She was feeding baby food to the child while she drove. "Just spooning it into the baby's mouth," Julie said.