I had a recent interaction that I feel totally summarizes my life and personality:
My wife and I were in Squirrel Hill, walking back to our car after grabbing a cup of tea. It was about 35 degrees and the wet snow weighed heavily on the awnings and rooftops of the houses that lined the side streets. As I climbed back into the car and readjusted the mirror, I saw a woman in a house-coat with a scarf obscuring her face attempting to shovel her small driveway. She was scooping the thick snow with one hand and steadying her cane with another. It was a sad sight. I imagined if my grandma were left alone in this weather how much I would want someone to help her.
But instead of jumping out of immediately and acting chivalrous like I should have, I had a 5-minute debate with my wife about the pros and cons of asking the woman if she wanted help. After realizing that there could literally nothing bad that could happen to me out of the situation, I opened the car door and began walking across the street to assist.
“Ma’am? Could I give you a hand with that?” I shouted across the street.
No reaction. Chivalry disrupted. Try to salvage this.
“Ma’am?” I said again.
So now I was faced with a choice: walk across the street, roll up on this old lady with my aggressive good-will and potentially scare the crap out of her or just get back into the car, considering my effort as good as the actual act.
Then the elderly woman turned around and I saw a baseball hat. I looked down and I’m pretty sure the elderly woman had on cuffed slacks and men’s boots. I began to think that the reason this elderly woman hadn’t responded to my gender-specific calls for help, because I was addressing the wrong gender. Now confusion set in. If the elderly woman was in fact an elderly man, well then that changed everything. I guess. If I were 78 years old, I wouldn’t want the double emasculation of some young buck offering to help my increasingly fragile self and also mistake me for a woman. Would I?
With my face reddening, I leapt back into the car before anyone would see me. I turned the key, backed out of the parking spot and began to drive, abandoning my good intentions on the sidewalk. I looked in my side mirror as the car pulled away, leaving the huddled figure on the bright and slushy street. My eyes narrowed as I struggled to take in the diminishing figure one last time.
Was that a woman’s hairnet he had on? What the hell?
Good intentions; faulty executions.