For those of you who don't know, my brother and family are visiting very soon for the wedding. My brother has bought a black 1970 Cadillac Fleetwood 75 Sedan (basically the same as the limousine model, but without the glass divider) to drive while he's over here and then decide what to do with (and to take back to Australia at some point in the future). It seats nine, or six with a *lot* of legroom.
It's actually quite impressive for its age - a 1970 car with climate control (set the temperature and forget), power seats, power windows and passenger controls for air conditioning and lighting, for example. And it's an extremely smooth car to drive, with comfortable seating - it's easy to see it was a "top of the line" car in its day.
If you're not interested in cars, you should probably skip the next section :)( An old car always comes with a few problems...Collapse )
Anyway, now onto the real topic of this post. The helpful and not so helpful people in downtown San Jose.
When the car first cut out, the first "not so helpful" people were the other drivers, who were completely unhappy to go around, even though the street was mostly empty and I had the hazard lights flashing.
The first helpful person was an african american, who saw that I was having car trouble, asked me if there was anything he could do to help, put down what he was carrying, and started asking other passers-by if they would help. All the passers-by in the next few minutes were either white or hispanic. The response of the passers-by was very consistently split across racial lines. The hispanics were all happy to help, and with their help the car ended up in a sensible resting place. All the whites had an excuse. "I have a bad back". "I'm disabled" (what?!). "I wouldn't be any help". You get the idea.
Once we had the car in a semi-reasonable position, the people who had originally helped me all went off to wherever they had been going to, and an older white couple came past - older people often admire this car, and these were no exception; they saw I was pushing it to get it into a proper marked parking spot (with steering difficulty, the best we'd been able to do was put it in a parking spot outside my place, facing the wrong way on a one-way street, rather than in the driveway). They asked if they could help, and I pushed the car into position and then got him to hold it while I went and applied the break, so it was neatly taking up one parking spot.
The next kind person was the parking inspector. I vaguely remember him as most likely the same parking inspector who insisted on writing me a ticket when I had gone into my house for five minutes to give something to Nicole, many months ago, and had left my SLK in the street without putting coins in the meter. But this time he was very understanding; he asked why I had a car the wrong way on the street in a spot with an expired meter, listened to my story, then told me to not bother paying the meter and put a note on the windshield for other parking inspectors to not ticket it, asking only that I get it into my driveway somehow by the end of the day.
Finally, some of my neighbors came past and asked if I wanted help pushing it into the driveway (since this post is partly commenting on how most of the kind and helpful people today were non-white, for completeness, these neighbors are hispanic). By this point I'd talked to Nicole's dad and was reasonably sure I'd be able to fix it quickly, so I declined, but they of course said that if I needed anything I should drop by. And not too much later, just after I'd got it running again, I was off to get something to help clean up, checked I had keys in my pocket, shut the door, and of course they were the wrong keys -- my house keys and the keys to the car were both still in the car. Neighbors to the rescue :-) ... they found a wire coat hanger and, with quite a bit more effort than would be required on most cars, we managed to get a door unlocked (one of those things you want to be a difficult exercise, and it was).
The bottom line: my experience today was quite disheartening if you look at it along racial lines, in that those of my own race were fairly consistently unwilling to help (with the exception of one older couple) with an issue of another, but those of the other races were all very willing to help. Unfortunately, I'm not at all surprised.