We had some record or near-record low temperatures here in the northwest suburbs of Philadelphia last night. For the first time this autumn, the mercury dipped near 20 °F as I left for work at six this morning. When I went to start my car, it wanted to, and it struggled... but that struggle was followed by a series of clicks. No dice, but the actuation of lights signified only a low voltage condition, one that hopefully a jump start would temporarily correct.
Being as it was so early, there didn't appear to be anyone else up, and I wasn't about to wake them. Around 6:15, someone came out of the building across from mine. I asked her if she'd be willing to help me. She asked me where my car was and if I lived in the complex. I pointed to my car and apartment; she said she had to bring her dog inside; and so I walked back over to my car. After a few minutes, I wondered what was taking so long, but I wasn't about to tell someone who'd agreed to help me to hurry up. Someone else came outside, and I considered asking them for a jump, but the first lady had gone to the trouble of putting her dog back in her apartment, so I didn't think it proper to turn around and tell her I didn't need her help.
A few more minutes pass, and I see someone who I think is her looking down at me. The situation completely flips at about 6:30, when around the corner rolls... a cruiser belonging to the Phoenixville Police. He told me that it wasn't standard procedure to give jump starts. I replied that nor was it standard procedure to call the authorities when a neighbor asks you for help. I'm conflicted about the encounter. On the one hand, I wonder if something I said or did alarmed the neighbor, and having the cop jump me saved me a few minutes over having to wait for another neighbor. On the other -- and pardon my language, but it is my blog -- what the fuck is our society coming to when a simple request for help is rejected without telling me so, and the police are called? I did not say a single word which would have in any way threatened my neighbor. Two years ago, I was driving back to Long Island from a job interview in Maryland. While getting dinner at a rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike, an older gentleman asked me for a jump start. You know what I did? I pulled my car around and provided my twelve volts! Not that difficult! Are we so wrapped up in media hype about "stranger danger" that we've lost all perspective and can't help each other out when we're in need?
Fortunately, the officer was friendly and jumped my car, and I was on my way, arriving to work only a few minutes late. Once I arrived, all heads turned to me. One co-worker asked me how old my battery was. "As old as the car -- four years, eight months," I replied. He suggested replacement, which is exactly what I did on my way home this afternoon. Given that the battery failed on the first truly cold day of the season, I'm confident it's the right call, and it'll save me from not only unintended lateness, but unpleasant interactions with either unfriendly neighbors or the local P.D.