by Ellie Braun-Haley
My friend Carin was driving home from a few days in the mountains on assignment. It was 1982, and she was excited to see her family again. She came up behind an erratic driver, and wondered if he was falling asleep, suffering a heart attack, or drunk at the wheel. Then she saw him toss a beer bottle.
She drove around him to safety, and put distance between the two cars. Then her conscience nagged, “I can’t just drive away, I need to get him off the road; someone might be killed!”
She slowed to move back behind the drunk, never pausing to think about repercussions. As the drunk approached again and passed, her plan took root. She would pull up beside him, honk and motion for him to pull over.
When she did that, however, he just looked confused and decelerated. After two repeats, he was driving at city street speeds, but she was no closer to stopping him. One more time… he slowed, and pulled over onto the shoulder. Then she watched in horror as he lost control of his car.
The ditch was roomy with gentle slopes. A good driver could drive in and out easily. He skidded in — and stopped. Was he hurt? Carin dashed down to his vehicle. He sat slumped.
She rapped on the window, “Are you all right?” He nodded yes and rolled down the window. “Give me your keys. I can’t allow you to drive,” she demanded. He stared, reached for his keys and handed them over.
“You could cause an accident,” she said, “a death that would haunt you throughout your life.”
“I’ve been up all night. I worked late, there was a farewell party… I needed to get home….” he replied, then wilted again.
Carin took him to her car, drove his out of the ditch, suddenly realizing she had no further plans. What to do?
Back up on the highway, inspiration struck. As if on schedule a car appeared on the horizon. With the stranger leaning against her car to steady himself, she entered the road. She waved her arms, and the car slowed to reveal four male passengers.
“One of you must drive this man’s car to his home, as he’s too drunk to drive.” The passenger in the front nodded “yes”. Everyone else agreed.
Carin returned to the drunk, told him of the arrangements, and assured him both he and his car would arrive home safely. He took her hand, smiled and said, ” Thank you for caring. No one has ever done something like this for me. I just…thank you.”
To this day, more than twenty years later, Carin doesn’t remember what she said in response. None of us know what that driver thinks of this incident today. Yet I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that, in addition to perhaps saving his life that night, her one act of kindness made a lasting change in his life.