baby on board

One Man’s Good Turn Is Another’s Annoyance

Doing a good deed doesn’t always earn thanks from everyone involved

A friend who asked that we refer to him only as Jonathan had an interesting encounter recently while trying to do a good turn for a woman having trouble parking her car. In downtown San Francisco it is, of course, notoriously difficult to find parking. In fact, even when a parking space looks like it’s available, it isn’t always as simple as that.

In this case, there was no car in the space the woman was trying to back into—the trouble she was having was that there was a person occupying the space. “I was walking to work and I heard this woman yelling out the window of her car, and I looked over,” Jonathan says. “She was trying to back into this space, but there was a guy just standing in it ignoring her, just texting on his cell phone. She was asking him to move. It seemed like she couldn’t quite believe that he would just stand there.”

The man was apparently trying to reserve the space for a friend who was presumably going to arrive soon in a car. The woman trying to park, though, felt a certain urgency. “She was telling him she had a baby in the car,” Jonathan said. “I could see the baby in a car seat in the back, but this guy just wasn’t interested. But I’m looking at them both, thinking, well, the parking place is for cars, not people. If you’re the only person trying to park a car in that space, you should be able to do that. Someone should help her out.”

I know not everyone agrees, but it just seemed like the right thing to do

It took Jonathan a minute to decide that that someone should be him, but once he did he walked over to talk to the man. “To be honest, I don’t know if I would have done it if he was younger, but he was older, about 60-ish, expensive clothes. I didn’t think he would be a threat,” Jonathan told Good Turns. “I just walked over and very calmly said, ‘Look, come out of the space. Come up here on the sidewalk. She’s got a baby in the car and she’s trying to park the car. There’s no other car here. Get out of the way.’ I was perfectly pleasant about it. And he did start to come out of the street. But he wasn’t really happy to hear it.”

Once the space was clear, the woman was able to back into it, but Jonathan stuck around—which meant he briefly got an earful from the man who’d been trying to save the space. “He was pretty annoyed,” Jonathan said. “I can’t remember exactly what he said but I had my phone out for some reason and he asked me what I was doing with my phone, was I going to call the cops, maybe he would call the cops. I said be my guest. I told him he was welcome to call the cops on me, I’d be happy to talk to them. He was pretty angry, though, so I just stuck around to make sure he didn’t cause any trouble for this woman. I mean, where is your decency? Is it that much trouble to get out of the way for this woman who has a baby in her car? Your car isn’t even here. And of course when his friend drives up it’s a much younger woman in a little sports car and he gets in and they take off.”

The woman with the baby appreciated the gesture, needless to say. “I told her I hoped she had a better day,” Jonathan recalls. “I know some people think that’s somehow okay, to save a space by standing in it, but I just think, if you’re there with your car, you get the space. The space is for cars, not people. And she had a baby. It’s hard enough to get around with a baby without having someone block your parking space. I know not everyone agrees, but it just seemed like the right thing to do.”

It’s true that not everyone would agree that Jonathan’s actions clearly constituted a good turn. But we do.

(Photo courtesy of Flickr user Marco Verch)

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