In the middle school car line yesterday, a woman in a suburban unknowingly ran over a traffic cone and then tried to drive away. However, she had only traveled a foot or so before the cone became wedged under her vehicle. She got out of her car to see what was causing the binding sound and realized what had happened. Unfortunately for her, the cone was very securely lodged under her car – and she was wearing a stiff looking pant suit and very high heels. She awkwardly tried to reach the cone but with no success. As I debated what I should do (I was wearing clothes that wouldn’t suffer too greatly from an expedition under her car and much more sensible shoes, but should I stop in the sluggish car line and risk angering the cars behind me? Let the 10 year old drive for just a minute?) a man hopped out of his car and ran over to her.
Now before you picture in your mind a fair damsel in distress and roll your eyes at me calling the man chivalrous, let me clarify. She was neither young nor beautiful, so I doubt his motives were self-serving. They didn’t appear to know each other, so it wasn’t him simply helping out a friend. She was just a tired, normal looking mom picking up her kids on her way home from work, and he was a perfect stranger.
The man spoke to her for a minute and then she got in her car. She slowly eased forward until the man was able to extricate the cone from where it had been stuck. She thanked him and drove off as the man jogged back to his car. Nothing else happened. No car horns honked in affirmation, no gongs sounded, there was no fanfare (although the 5th grader and I were cheering in my car), in fact, no one really seemed to have noticed what happened.
The languid car line moved on as if that brief hiccup had never even occurred.
Maybe I read too much into that situation. Maybe I made too big a deal out of what happened. But in a world where so many men no longer look out for women, in a world where women ask to be treated just the same as men, in a world where men are now criticized if they ever dare give a woman a hand, what that man did was a big deal.
And it was beautiful.