Today I left something undone that I wish I had done – though perhaps others may say I’m foolish to think so.
I was driving into the Dandenongs (a local mountain range) and had turned into a road that winds its way for about 10 minutes by car up the mountainside towards the town of Sassafras.
Just around the corner, before this road begins to twist and climb in earnest, I saw three young lads trying to hitch a ride. Probably in their late teens or early twenties, all with short hair and casually dressed in t-shirts and jeans. That’s all I could tell from the quick glimpse I caught of them as, even while my foot hesitated over the brake pedal, I drove on by.
And basically that’s the end of my story.
I can hear you all now:
“But of course!”
“You did the right thing.”
“Three young men? You’d have been stupid to stop.”
A chorus of reason and common sense? Yes, that’s true.
But what if I’d hit the brake instead of the accelerator? A different story plays in my head …
Instead of driving past, I stop the car. Ok, ok, so I have the doors locked, take a careful look at the three lads and ask them through a barely open window where they’re headed. :) But with all reasonable precautions taken and satisfied they pose no threat, I unlock the car and offer them a ride.
Somehow they fold themselves and their long legs into my wee car, and we’re off. We joke about the comfort of an air-conditioned car on such a hot day, even for a short ten minutes. I hear about the party they’re anticipating or the day’s adventure they’ve had – depending on whether their journey is taking them out or carrying them home. At the top of the road, I stop to let them out and with smiles and thanks they disappear from my life once more.
A foolish fantasy? Perhaps.
But I find myself wondering if I’ve been infected with the prevailing myth of potential danger in every stranger. It could instead have been a pleasant encounter, and I’d have done a good deed for the day – if I’d only been prepared to risk it.
After all, we’re not talking here about a lonely country road at night. It was broad daylight in a populated area, with a fair bit of traffic on the road.
And for all I know, these lads were just like the kids I used to teach. Needing to hitch rides when they lived or visited mates in the Dandenongs, because they couldn’t afford a car and availability of public transport up in the hills is poor, especially on a weekend.
So yes, I may indeed have done the most sensible thing under the circumstances.
But somehow I’m left feeling a little sad, partly guilty and a tad grubby – covered in the dirt of distrust and wanting to brush myself off.
And I like to think those young men didn’t have to trudge the whole way up the mountain – that they finally encountered someone who was kinder and more trusting than I was today!