I was driving back home after my dentist appointment today when I came to a stop sign. As I prepared to press on the pedal to continue my journey, I saw a man to my left marching in the middle of the road. My immediate thought was, “this man must be crazy.”
The man turned down the street I was coming from and I watched him from my rearview mirror. He started walking in the median and a few cars began to line up behind him. By this time, I was holding up the line on my lane as well but I didn’t realize it until the lady behind me honked loudly on her horn. She was mouthing something really fast and her eyebrows were raised just below her hairline. I quickly drove past the stop sign to get out of the angry lady’s way but something told me to turn back around.
As I prepared to make the U-turn, thoughts ran through my head. “Someone is going to call the police on that man. He might go to jail or maybe he might get shot.” Another thought, “What’s wrong with him even? He must be on something or maybe he’s mentally ill.” A third thought, “But if he’s mentally ill, what alternative number can I call?”
I drove back up the street and there were now several cars lined up behind the guy walking on the road. The first car was a big, white pickup truck - similar color and size to the truck in the #AhmaudArbery incident. I couldn’t see the guy inside of the truck or what he was doing, I could only see his emergency lights flickering. A few cars began to quickly swerve past the truck but it wasn’t clear to me what was happening. I waited in the car line for less than a minute before I crossed over to the other lane and positioned my car directly in front of the truck.
Carefully, I drove up to the Black guy, rolled down my window, and said, “Hey! You good?” making sure my voice sounded a bit deeper than usual.
Admittedly, I wasn’t so sure. Maybe he was going to curse me out or worse, pull out a weapon himself but at this point, I was already more terrified for him than I was of him.
The guy responded coherently by saying, “yeah, I’m good.”
I took a few seconds to observe him. He was about my age. His clothes were kind of dirty but he was walking in a straight line. From his tone and from my observations, he didn’t seem ill and was coherent enough to speak clearly. So then I said, “then please get out of the street.”
He didn’t listen. He looked away then proceeded to walk in front of my car.
I drove up to him again but with more assertion this time and said, “Look, someone will call the police and you don’t want that so I’m trying to help. Just don’t walk in the middle of the street.” By the time I started my second sentence, I could hear my voice shaking for some reason and I felt myself folding my hands together in a prayer-like position...I prepared to beg him.
To be fair, perhaps the guy in the white pickup truck wasn’t going to do anything or call the police for that matter but from the most recent news, the scene itself triggered a fear in me that I couldn’t ignore.
The guy looked at me and paused for a second. He took his time to light the cigarette in his hand then said, “Ok, I’m good. I got it.”
I could tell he had heard what I was trying to say - it reflected in his eyes. Perhaps he felt moved to see a young Black girl worried about his safety - a stranger who cared enough to look out for him during a time wherein the #BLM hashtag trended worldwide and all over the local Kentucky news.
I then replied, “Just be safe.”
I left him there and stopped at the gas station just up the road. A few minutes later, I saw the white pickup truck pass by. I listened for police sirens, but I didn’t hear any. I figured everything was settled so, I drove back up the street to head home and there he was.
I felt a huge sense of relief and my nerves cooled down. Not only was the Black guy okay but he had listened. He was walking safely on the side of the road and the once chaotic scene seemed peaceful. I rolled down my window to wave out to him again from across the street and yelled, “get home safely.”
He yelled back, “I will, thank you,” and that was it.
In hindsight, I don’t know his story or why he had been walking in the middle of the street but I knew I didn’t want to hear about another preventable hashtag.
After that incident, it dawned on me how the social justice issues affecting our communities has caused a bit of anxiety in me - even though it hasn’t affected my family directly. My thought wasn’t to turn back because he may get hit by a car while walking in the middle of the road, my thought was that he may get shot. My thoughts turned to #AhmaudArbery...#GeorgeFloyd...#BreonnaTaylor...and the moment I interrupted was because I understood where the situation could lead. This newly intensified anxiety fueled my adrenaline.
The truth is, I’d never tell you to drive up to every random person or to not call the police if you believe it‘s necessary. However, you may agree that there is currently a lot of negativity in the world and if you’re in a situation where you can help (with caution of course) then, by all means, let’s #Show #Some #Love.
Stop the violence, stop the injustices.