Thursday, May 24, 2007

hello, Karma? are you there, Karma?

I was walking to the Metro after work yesterday on my way to see Dr. W. As I crossed the street, I saw an elderly couple on the corner. They were both huddled over a map and one of them was wearing a fanny pack. Obviously tourists, I thought to myself. I watched them flip the map over as they were trying to figure out just exactly where they were. In the mad rush to get to where ever it is that we all needed to go, no one stopped to help them.

For a second, I thought that I would just follow the masses and ignore the old people. But for some strange reason, I just couldn’t. Maybe it was the fact that they were old. Or maybe it was the innocent, clueless looks on their faces. Or perhaps I was appreciative that they hadn’t rented a car (for more on how I don’t think old people should drive, click here). Whatever it was, it tugged at my heartstrings. I actually turned around, walked towards the couple and offered my assistance. A look of relief washed over their faces. “Oh thank you, thank you!” the old lady said. I replied, somewhat embarrassed, “Don’t thank me yet. I may not know where you need to go.” The old man said, “Do you know how to get to Georgetown from here?” I answered, “The university or…” The old man interrupted, “No, the little shopping area.” I warned them, “Well, it’s a bit of a walk from here but if you’re up for it, I can tell you how to walk there.” The old lady said, “It’s a pretty day so I don’t mind walking.” I gave them directions and even showed them the route on their little map. They were very, very appreciative. “We would’ve been lost without you,” the old lady said. That old lady sure knew how to tug on those strings. As they both said thank you for the umpteenth time, I wished them a happy stay in G-town and I headed towards the Metro.

On my way there, I thought, Awww…I feel warm fuzzies for helping those people. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so hard on tourists. Yeah, they keep me from getting on the Metro sometimes with their standing on both sides of the escalator and their collective stopping at the doorway to a train, or their collective stopping at the bottom or top of an escalator. But they’re just trying to figure things out like I was when I was a DC intern so long ago. Granted, I always stood on the right and always kept moving, especially during rush hour. However, I can relate to their confusion. It felt good to help that couple.

Just another deposit into the Bank of Karma.

When I got to the Metro station, I remembered that I had a negative balance on my SmarTrip card. I saw two SmarTrip fare card machines. One had a long line of people who seemed to belong to the same group. The other was empty. I went to the empty one. “No SmarTrip” it read across the top. Damn you, broken fare card machine. I walked to the other machine with the long line. Everyone was holding a wad of cash while the person in front worked the machine. Eventually, the person in front figured out how to use the machine. By the time she did so, two more SmarTrip card users had lined up behind me. I heard grumbling behind me, “Couldn’t they just use the regular fare card machines? Why does it have to be the only one that works for SmarTrip?” Clearly she was reading my mind.

Surprisingly, the station manager noticed that there were 7 people in line for this machine and walked over to us yelling, “Who here is trying to get a regular fare card?” The 4 ladies that were part of the bigger group spoke up and the station manager showed them the empty fare card machines that were nearby that they could use. One of them explained, “I didn’t know we could use these. We’re visiting from Texas and all of this is so new to us.” Yeah. Whatevs. Step aside for the locals.

Eventually, I reloaded my SmarTrip card. But I had wasted 15 minutes of my life. That SmarTrip transaction should’ve taken a couple of seconds to complete. If those tourists hadn’t been at the only working SmarTrip card machine, I could’ve been on an earlier train, instead of the one I got on that was delayed at Metro Center. I was late to my appointment. Fortunately, Dr. W was running behind too.

I liked the old couple I helped. I even liked the warm fuzzies I got from helping them. But that may be the last time I help tourists in DC.


sunchaser said...

You are so sweet for helping them though! :)

I'm sure that they'll remember that more than many other things that happen during their visit - the girl who helped them find their way.

Anonymous said...

I guess I don't understand the meaning of your post. You were helping them because of karma? You were helping them because they reminded you of someone you thought should be helped? What about helping people just to help them...because it needs to be done?

lizzie said...

sunchaser--that's not why i helped them but it would be nice to be remembered in a positive light.

anon--tourists bring out the worst in me. for some reason, i am more willing to help a stranded motorist on the side of the road than a lost tourist. but for whatever reason, i wanted to help the elderly couple.

i believe that when you do something good, it will come back to you--probably not right away, but eventually. this is not the reason why i do good things. this is an afterthought. as i sat waiting and waiting for the tourists to figure out the fare card machine, i was hoping that the good karma from helping that couple would came back to me just then.

it didn't. and because i wrote this bitchy post, it probably won't. but that's not going to keep me from helping the next non-tourist i come across.

sunchaser said...

Yeah, tourists can be annoying, but I think people in DC forget themselves what it's like to be a tourist.

And I know that whenever I've traveled anywhere (on my many travels :p ), it's those little things that people do (or don't do) that stick out in your mind the most.

So maybe Mayor Fenty should send you a special thanks for representing the city so well (unlike some of your fellow citoyens). ;)

I'm not sure how much I believe in karma either, but that's not why I'd help someone out either.