Friday, March 11, 2011

Jack the Ripper in Polartec

The things that unite us are greater than those that divide us, as President Barack Obama is fond of saying. The trouble is, I sometimes have a problem believing it. People seem prone to allow everything from the petty to the profane to come between them in the name of ideological purity. But that's one of the qualities I most admire about him, he believes the best even when I'm in doubt.

For instance, take the guy in a pickup truck a couple of days ago -- there were two guys in two trucks, actually, one and then the other. Both got my attention by surprise. You see, all day I'd been encouraging patients to control their cholesterol levels by losing weight, altering their food choices, and getting regular exercise. Sure, there are medications we can prescribe for high cholesterol, but those are mostly for levels that can't be readily controlled by other means. The idea is to get busy doing the things that eliminate the need for medications later on.

On my way home, thinking about a nap, I realized I ought to be practicing what I'd been preaching, so I drove down a nice, quiet country lane, pulled off to the side, set the emergency flashers, and headed off on foot. It was chilly but I had my gloves and jacket and figured I'd work up a sweat soon enough. I'd barely gotten a couple of blocks when I was startled by a horn honking and turned around to see Pickup Truck Driver #1 slowing down and lowering his passenger side window.

"Do you need a ride? Is that your truck back there?" he asked, gesturing with a thumb hooked in the direction of my CRV.

"No, I'm just walking for exercise, but thanks for stopping to ask," I replied. He gave me a curious look, as though he wasn't sure he'd heard me correctly, or if he had, was it time to call the police and have me delivered to the local looney bin. I smiled and did my best to look like a sane, harmless tree hugger who didn't know any better than to walk when I could have easily driven. It apparently worked, because he shook his head and drove off, waving pleasantly. It really was considerate of him to stop, you know? I couldn't help feeling appreciative for small town Mainers.

About two minutes later, another truck stopped and its driver, a white-haired fellow in his 60s with a great smile, asked if the vehicle he'd seen on the side of the road back yonder was mine (sound familiar?). I said yes, and he also offered me a ride. There I was, a complete stranger, and in less time than it takes for the average commercial break on television, I'm offered assistance by two guys, neither of whom apparently gave it a second thought that I might be Jack the Ripper in Polartec. Stephen King, on the other hand, would have a field day.

What is remarkable about all of this is the fact that I've got an Obama campaign sticker displayed on my rear bumper and the second guy stopped anyway. What's remarkable about that? Well, as he drove away, I saw a sticker on his rear window that read, "Don't blame me, I voted for the American." I guess Barack was right, after all. On this country road, at least, ideology be damned. What matters isn't the flavor of your politics, but being willing to help if someone needs it.

(Photo of a dairy farm near Skowhegan, ME copyright 2011 by the author)

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