As I mentioned on my radio show (which you can listen to here if you missed it), I made my shopping excursion on a Sunday night, which meant that by the time I got home it was pretty late--something like 9:30pm, which is like 2am in aging parent hours.
Now, I live on a dead-end street, which has its advantages (mainly that it's pretty quiet and the kids can even play in the street), but which also has certain disadvantages, chief among them being that people feel like they can simply deposit their cars at the end of it. See, what happens is that people who can't be bothered to park legally just leave their cars at the end of the block, which in turn blocks in like four other parked cars at once, which means at 6am you wake up to the assholes who got blocked in honking their horns in hopes that the asshole who blocked them in will come and move their car.
So anyway, when I arrived home at the ungodly hour of 9:30pm I saw a car parked at the end of the block. I also saw people standing around it, suggesting the other disadvantage of living on a dead-end street might be in play, namely that people think they can hang around all night in the dark and partake in nefarious activities, as you sometimes discover in the morning from the vomit or condoms or Dutch guts or the bags of Burger King (or all of the above if things got really wild) or whatever else they leave behind. All of this is to say I was on the defensive when I pulled up in front of my building, in addition to being very eager to discharge my groceries, park The Car The Bank Owns Until I Finish Paying Them Back, and turn in for the night.
However, as I emerged from my car, one of the lurking figures emerged from the dark and rapidly approached me. This was not some sort of midnight reveler or teenage ne'er-do-well. Rather, it was an older woman who, in broken English, frantically exhorted me before my foot even hit to the street to PLEASE YOU MUST START CAR!!!
This is where my profound hypocrisy kicks in. See, on one hand I'm an asshole who just drove 20 miles in New York City to buy groceries. On the other hand, I'm a smug semi-professional blogger, columnist, and radio host who resents drivers. And on both hands, I'm in no fucking mood to help this person with the Hyundai she's parked at the end of the block. So I wave her off testily and say something like, "Can I just please just unload my groceries first?"
At the back of mind however I'm aware that, petty personal politics and pet peeves aside, this is a person who needs help--not that a car that won't start is even remotely a life-threatening emergency, but it can no doubt seem like that to the utterly car-dependent. And as I unload my own car I get a clearer picture of the situation: there are two women of similar age, both quite addled, and both of whom are only able to speak the most rudimentary English. By now they're basically foisting a key fob at me, insisting I get in the Hyundai and miraculously start it somehow.
So I take the fob and get in the Hyundai, and of course it's one of these keyless affairs with a start button. I'm not even remotely an auto mechanic, but at least with an old-fashioned key you can get a sense of what's going on with the car when you turn it. The start button on the other hand offers no feedback whatsoever--I just stab at it and nothing happens. Odds are it's the battery, but I can't even give them a jump start because my street is very narrow, they're flanked on either end by parked cars, and there's no way to get my battery anywhere near theirs. I'd have to push the Hyundai like halfway down the block to even attempt it, but with these two to assist me the most likely scenario would be the Hyundai rolling down the street, hitting about 20 parked cars, and setting off a cacophony of alarms in the process.
Not only is the level of desperation they're exhibiting out of proportion to the predicament of a stalled car, but it also turns out they live only two miles away. Meanwhile, I've had time to calm down and adopt a more personable demeanor, so given the situation I suggest they wait in the lobby where it's warm and I'll just call them a car service. (Funny how two miles in a neighborhood with decent bus service seems like an insurmountable distance to the car-dependent.) So I call the number of the last car service I used, but they don't answer, which makes sense because the last time I used them was like 2012 and I and everyone else now just uses Uber when they need a car service. However, I'm not about to call them an Uber, since I'm irrationally worried about strangers messing up my passenger rating.
"You know what? Why don't I just drive you," I announce, which unleashes a deluge of relief on their part. So we all pile into The Car The Bank Owns Until I Finish Paying Them Back, and as I arrive at their destination they get out of the car even before I've come to a complete stop. Then the owner of the Hyundai knocks on my window. I roll it down and she practically attacks me with a fistful of money. "No!" I insist. "Absolutely not!" I'm yelling at her now the way you yell at your grandmother when she tries to pay for lunch. But she jabs the money at me so insistently I feel her fingernails digging into my forearm. Then she releases the money into my lap, and by the time I've registered the amount ($20) she's disappeared halfway up the block.
"Well fuck it," I think to myself, and head home.
So that's how I made twenty bucks driving to Wegmans. Don't tell the TLC.