My Dad was dropping my girlfriend and me off at the train station after we had visited my parents in Virginia. Approaching the platform, I saw an elderly woman accompanied by a less elderly woman. They were standing next to what could only be described as three massive bags.
Before I go any further into the story, you have to wonder what they were thinking when they packed for the trip. Had they never ridden Amtrak before? Did they think it was an unlimited luggage deal? Did they assume you could put stuff on top of the train? Also, what in God’s name made them think they’d be able to handle three gigantic bags packed to the brim? “Load ‘er up Edith, mema has been doing deadlifts all morning in preparation for this. Been juicing all weekend too. Just let me get one more hit of HGH and we’ll be good.”
So we approach them on the platform and as soon as I see these two ladies with their three gargantuan bags I avoid eye contact. I know what’s coming and I’ll be blunt, I didn’t want to help them. I mean, I’d help them if they asked me. And if no one else would, I wouldn’t let them struggle. But if you’re giving me the option between volunteering and waiting for some other Good Samaritan to step up to the plate – I’m sitting it out until the last possible second.
But sure enough, as soon as we get up there, the younger woman comes up to us:
“Excuse me: when the train comes, can you help my friend here get her bags onto the train?”
So you’re telling me these bags were for ONE person? And not just one person, but the more feeble of the group? I mean, how did you even get them up here?!?! Did you have one of those guys from the strongman competitions on ESPN2 help you then have to bounce? These are all things I wanted to ask her. But before I could, we said we’d help.
“Thank you so much!” says the friend.
Sure thing, we all say.
“No, you don’t understand. I’d help her, but I can’t. I’m afraid of trains.”
Just to clarify: once we agree to help you, you’re off the hook on justifying your request for help. There isn’t going to be some kind of review board before the train gets here to validate that you do in fact need help. We don’t need to explore your phobias.
“It’s okay. No problem, we’re happy to help.”
“No, you REALLY don’t understand. Six family members of mine were killed sitting in a car hit by a train.”
Okay, you only need the extra point to win, no need for the two point. Now you’re just assaulting a captive audience with this grisly train death story you clearly like telling for some strange reason. We said we’d help. We feel bad for you. This is sympathy overkill. Also, let’s be real: if six of your family members were in a car hit by a train, you shouldn’t be afraid of trains. You should be afraid of sitting in cars with your family members.
So we just told her how horrible that sounded, and how sorry we were, and she nodded appreciatively. Then, she said my favorite part:
“Yeah. The worst part was it happened on my birthday. Now every year I have to think of that, and my birthday is ruined.”
THAT’S the worst part?!?! Six of your family cease to exist, and the worst part it happened on a overall fairly meaningless day you happened to be born on? Hey, at least you HAVE a birthday to celebrate. None of the Train Track Six are getting serenaded at Chili’s.
I bet she was a treat at their funeral. The whole family is crying, asking God why he chose to do this to them, and she’s in the back thinking, “Okay….so are we doing cake now or later, or….?”
The moral of this story: don’t help anyone do anything, otherwise you may have to hear a depressing story about why they need your help.