IRL Help17 Aug 2010
I'm generally viewed as a Helpful Person, mostly online. But I am also generally helpful in the "real world" too. I do weekly shopping trips for the GetUp office, I get coffee and I debug "computer says no" issues. Generally a helpful kind of guy.
Today I was walking home and I stopped in at my local shopping center to get ingredients for my dinner, Yet Another Bachelor Meal: Tuna Patties Edition. I decided after getting these ingredients that I didn't want to walk along Parramatta Road where all the car fumes are, but instead elected to take the "back route" which is about the same distance, but much quieter and less fumy.
About 500m away from the shops, I'm walking along one of the backstreets and I see this... shape... moving side to side. I didn't know what it was. As I approach it, there's just enough light from the streetlight on the other side of the road that I can see it's this old lady trying to push one of the shopping trolleys from Coles.
As I near her, she must have heard me and asked if I could help her move her trolley. It sounded like she asked if I could move it to the bus stop. Being the generally helpful kind of guy that I am, I did that since the bus stop was about 50m up the road. I thought she was going to get on a bus and take her stuff home.
She looked about 70 and shuffled very slowly, using the fences and walls along the way as support. She was probably walking less than a kilometre per hour. When I moved the trolley it must've weighed as much as her! This thing was deceptively heavy and I was thankful that it was only to the bus stop! When I got the bus stop I looked back at her, waved & shouted a goodbye and then carried on my way.
Not 3 steps later, dogs start barking behind me. Thinking it was just the usual racket, I keep carrying on.
Then the old lady shouts for help.
Fuck. My first thought was that she was being attacked and by the dim streetlights it certainly looked like it. She was bent over in an almost "stop biting my legs" kind of fashion and the dog was "strafing" around her and barking.
Adrenalin instantly kicks in. I go into Hulk Mode and run up to the dog and shout as loud as I can:
"Get off!" "Go away!" "BAD DOG"
The dog stops harassing the old lady and sets it sights on me. I can see it clearly now. It looks almost like a kelpie, but I couldn't pick the exact breed. It starts barking at me and I bark back.
"BAD DOG" "SHOO" "GO!"
The old lady's behind the dog, I'm at the front. I tell her to come past the dog but stay wide. It's about at this point something ridiculous happens.
A guy in his mid-20s, rides past on a bike. No earphones in (this is important). I shout at him "YO! You! Need your help here!" He just keeps on riding. I want to find this guy and this dog again, and put them in a room together to let him know what it feels like.
For me, I was fucking terrified. I was bitten by a Terrier when I was 10 on my ring finger of my left hand. I have the scars to prove it. The dog was let off the leash and rushed up to me and grabbed my hand. Instinctively, I try pulling away whilst the dog still has a grip. I stand up and this little terrier is dangling from my finger. I don't remember what happened next, but I know that there was a lot of blood. I didn't want that to happen again.
So this old lady manages to get next to the dog all the while I'm screaming at it "SHOO!", "BAD DOG!". The lady gets past and we both turn our backs. I see the dog come running up beside me, still barking. This is where I thought it was going to have my leg for dinner. I turn around in Extreme Hulk Mode and shout "LEAVE NOW!". That seems to be the magic words as the dog puts its tail between its legs and decides that tonight is not the night to fuck with the angry guy who can shout louder than it can bark.
The dog's still barking as we walk off and then one "ruff" later, it stops. Peace and quiet. Some old lady two doors down is out the front of her house and me still being in Jack Bauer on Steroids Mode, say "Call the RSPCA!" like it was a matter of Utmost National Security. She replies and says she's called the rangers many times and they won't do anything until the dog bites somebody. Apparently the dog just roams out the front of the house, harrassing people as it walks past. I think this is strange because I've been down this road once or twice and never had it come to me before. I bid Elderly Lady #2 goodnight.
Elderly Lady #1 tells me that actually she doesn't want the Super Heavy Maxi Trolley left at the bus stop, but she wants to take it to her house which is about 500m down the road. That's cool. I'm still hopped up on Adrenalin and feeling like I could battle Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee simultaneously and it'd be an OK fight.
We walk at her steady shuffling pace for the whole time and she tells me that 9 years ago she was in a car accident, twisted her spine and damaged her hips. The legs feel fine in the morning but when she gets tired they lock up, like they'd done tonight. She seemed like she was in a lot of pain, but she was handling it well. She said that the doctors do nothing and that they don't treat it with surgery, but rather give her pills. I guess that's a cheaper alternative, but is it really the best? I am not one to say.
She keeps saying things like "thank you so much for helping me" and "I would have been stuck back there with that dog if it wasn't for you" and I humbly accept these thanks. We talk about the dog some more and she asks what I do for a job now. I say that I'm a programmer, but I really love animals. She suggests that I should have been a vet. I would love to be one, but I can't stand the heartbreak of losing an animal. When the family budgie died -- the one we had since I was 3? -- it broke my heart. Then in April at Railscamp I got the news that the family dog, Rex, was put down. He was suffering from arthritis and was blind. He was a stupid dog, but was great to have around. Veterinary isn't for me.
As we cross the road she points a little way up the street and says "that's home". I'm thankful. Super Heavy Maxi Trolley is making me use muscles I haven't used in probably too long. We speak some more, this time about the guy who rode past on his bike. She says that when she was younger, people always helped each other out. Now it's all "me, me, me". She thanks me again.
We come across a very friendly black cat which I use as a distraction from pushing the trolley which I temporarily leave against a wall. I stretch my arms in the guise of stroking the cat as it winds its way between my legs. The cat leaves to go rub itself on some parked cars and roll in the gutter. Cats are awesome.
We run out of high wall about 150m from her house and the lady grabs on to the trolley as we near our destination. "The one with the light here" she points in a narrow doorway to two units. "Number 2!" she says, almost sounding relieved. The cat's stuck with us and proceeds to scratch at the door, and I thought it must have lived there.
The lady tries to get to her handbag to get the keys. The handbag is not-so-strategically placed under the heaviest bag of the bunch and when she goes to lift it I stop her and do it myself. I've seen people really hurt themselves by doing simple things like this, and I don't want her to come to harm. She finds the keys and unlocks the door and the cat just saunters up the stairs. The lady tells me that the cat doesn't live there. Hm. Then how do you get the cat out?
I lift her bags out of the trolley which we leave just outside her door and then I take the bags upstairs to the front door of her unit. I come back downstairs where she's waiting and she says "I have to pay you, you have been so good to me for no reason." I say "No, it's OK" but she insists on giving me a scrunched up $10 note from her purse. She wouldn't take no for an answer.
So the cat. I think myself a bit of an animal person and I wasn't quite sure how we'd get it out, but apparently crouching out the front, clicking my fingers and saying "here kitty kitty" like they do in the movies... that actually worked. The cat came up and stroked itself against my arm and then rolled itself in the gutter.
I think at this point in time the Adrenalin has worn off. Yesterday I felt like crap. I felt alive tonight.
If you see someone in need, please don't be like that jackass on the bike and keep going. Stop. Help where you can. Surely we're all better off if we all help each other rather than being pathetic self-serving bastards? We are all human. We should show compassion to all those around us. As the note right above the handle on my bedroom door says: "Be awesome always."
TL;DR: I helped an old lady with her really heavy shopping trolley. A dog heckled her and I vocally bitchslapped it into submission (all the while feeling like Jack Bauer talking down a terrorist). Then an awesome black cat came up and was really friendly. I may have used up my Adrenalin allowance for the entire year.