My evening walk home from work takes me through one of the industrial areas of my town. Lots of car repair places. A huge warehouse which accepts deliveries from colossal semi-trailers. A rubbish-scattered railway crossing. One slightly dodgy, old-school, working-man’s pub. It’s not unsafe – there’s enough people around that I can attract attention if I get into trouble, but not so many people that I wouldn’t notice someone following me. Plus, one of the unexpected benefits of living under constant, unpredictable threat for so long is that my war-zone instincts are pretty bloody good.
Walking though this insalubrious area tonight, I noticed that an empty ute parked outside the huge warehouse still had its lights on. Being a good little citizen, I went into the warehouse in the hopes of saving someone an embarrassing NRMA call-out, only to be informed that the ute “wasn’t one of ours, love, thanks anyway”, and that its driver was probably in the pub. I should go and check there.
Now, I hate pubs. Bad associations. The mere smell brings nausea and anxiety. I’ll steel myself to go into one if I have to (mostly for occasional post-rehearsal choir dinners), but by and large I hate the places. But, having started off on my quest to save someone a dead battery, I really had no choice but to finish it off. So I stepped into the pub (which is pretty much every stereotype of the working man’s pub you can think of – boozy smell, sticky carpet, blokes in their Blundstones and fluorescent work vests enjoying a coldie after work) to tentatively, politely complete my mission – cursing all the while my stupidity in taking the act of being a good Samaritan to such inconvenient and uncomfortable lengths.
And you know what? Nothing happened. The pretty barmaid shouted across the pub: “Oi! Which of youse’s got a ute? Oh, you, should’ve known. You’ve left your lights on, ya dickhead!”. A young bloke left his beer, took a ribbing from his mates, and went to rescue his ute, with a nod of thanks to me. And I escaped gratefully into fresh air that did not smell of beer, and resumed my walk home.
So being a good Samaritan was not very convenient. It certainly wasn’t comfortable, although I was never unsafe. But maybe it was a good lesson for me. A good reminder that people, generally, are decent. That it’s ok to trust people because I can also trust my war-zone instincts. And that if you park your ute and leave your lights on, you’ll cop a ribbing from your mates and the barmaid will call you a dickhead.