Sunday, July 29, 2007


Most guys like to fix things. If a friend calls for help, most of us will assist if we can. The more dire a friend's need, the more likely it is that we'll want to help.

So it's no surprise that my reader wanted to help out when he got a call for aid on the night of Super Bowl Sunday. My reader and his wife had watched the game together and were headed toward bed.

"I'd had my share of drinks and was tired," he recalls.

He was alarmed when the phone rang. It was an acquaintance from his homeowner's association, whose car had broken down and left him stranded in the parking lot of a restaurant with his wife and their infant granddaughter about seven miles away from my reader's home. The parking lot wasn't well-lighted, and the restaurant wasn't in a great area of town. The acquaintance wanted to know if my reader could pick them up, since their car had to be towed.

My reader knew that his acquaintance was part of a close-knit religious community, however, and figured that he must have exhausted all of his other possibilities before calling him, because they weren't particularly close friends.

"What was the right thing to do?" he asks. "Come to the aid of a nice-guy colleague and his wife and grandchild, putting all of us at risk because I had been drinking? I do hold my liquor well, or at least I like to think I do, but I am sure that I was over the legal limit. Or tell him, `Sorry, but you've got to find another way home, friend'?"

The stranded couple faced mounting medical bills, my readers adds, and a taxi would have strained their resources -- "although they were eating out."

As gallant as he might have felt driving to rescue his acquaintances, it would have been a fool's errand and ethically wrong to boot. By driving when he was in no condition to do so legally or safely, he would have been putting at risk not only himself, his friend, his friend's wife and their granddaughter, but also others on the road. Seven miles may seem a short distance to cover, but one mile is too long for someone who's been drinking, and if something went wrong a lifetime would not erase the damage caused by such a foolish choice.

The right thing for my reader to do was to tell the acquaintance that he couldn't pick him up. He might, instead, have offered to help him find a ride. If it had been me, I'd have come straight out and told him that I'd been watching the Super Bowl and had had enough drinks that I didn't think it wise for me to be driving. But my reader may be more private about such things and, if so, he could simply have said that he wasn't in a position to drive but that he'd be glad to help find someone else. Whether this involved paying for a cab to get them home or calling someone else from the homeowner's association would have been up to my reader and his acquaintance.

Of course, my reader was not obligated to help out his acquaintance at all. But as fellow members of a homeowner's association, wouldn't it be nice to think that from time to time, in addition to heated discussions about fence heights, paint colors and roofing materials, they could reach out to help one another like good neighbors?

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