2 Accidents and Why I Continue to Have Faith in Humankind

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Early Thursday morning last week I found myself lying on the sidewalk having fell off my bike while riding up a small hill. I’m not in the habit of falling off my bike so let me explain. By early Thursday morning I mean I was out celebrating with friends on Wednesday night and it got later and later and later until it was Thursday; then it got lighter and lighter and lighter until it was early Thursday morning, at which point I started to bicycle home, in a mostly intoxicated state.

I’m looking back at this event because it was a good night, I got solidly drunk and I didn’t spend a dime until I left to go home. It’s rare that you luck upon open bars, but I always try to make the most of them when given the opportunity. So I was happily off my face and on my way home when some guy on the street asked me for money. His name was Jesse, and he was from Vancouver, and he was on his way to another part of Canada, for some reason – the details escape me. I do remember that he was asking for money to stay at a hostel in town, that he said his mum was going to be wiring him money later in the week, and that he was going to be able to pay me back.

I wobbled back and forth, and then slurred, “What’s your name again?”

After Jesse had repeated his story I patted him on the shoulder and said, “Jesse, I think I have $10 in my wallet, would that help?” Jesse affirmed that it would help so I continued, trying to place my words in the right order while maintaining my balance on the sidewalk, “I’ll have a look in my wallet, if I have $10 you can have that, if it’s $20 then you’ll have that. I don’t want you to repay me, but I’d love to hear how you get on. I’ll give you my email address.”

I got my wallet out, opened it up and it was empty. I looked in one side and the other, nothing! Nothing but old receipts and someones business card. I remember Jesse exclaiming something about ‘no money’, not in an annoyed way or even a particularly dejected way, more just in surprised realisation that this drunk guy was probably as lost as he.

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I was surprised too, but then I remembered why, and in a triumphant gesture I unzipped the hidden middle fold and whipped out my only note, a $20. I handed it over to Jesse, and then while he waited I got out a pen and paper and wrote down my email address for him.

A little while later I was lying on the road having fallen off my bike going up a slight hill. Interesting night.

Jesse hasn’t contacted me yet.

A few years ago in New Zealand I found myself trying to untangle my motorcycle from a fence and pull it back up a grassy slope. It was a clear summer day and I was struggling on a verge, off to the side of a dirt road which runs up to the northern most tip of the Corromandel Peninsula, a stunning place if you ever get the chance to visit. While riding back from my solo, multi day motorcycle camping trip I had become a little too taken with my surroundings and I entirely forgot to follow the dirt road around a corner. I now know with an unfortunate degree of certainty that grassy verges, and fences for that matter, are both much less rideable than roads.

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My motorcycle has always been heavy, but the problem was made far worse by the fact that it was stuck in gear, and both the brake lever and brake pedal had snapped off in the crash. “Both brakes, can you believe it, what a bummer,” I muttered as I toiled in vain to get it back on the road. The back wheel was still on mostly flat ground, but the front wheel was down the hill; so I was trying to pull it up backwards, but with the wheels locked in gear my motorcycle wasn’t moving an inch. I couldn’t seem to get it out of gear without letting it roll further down the slope, brakes would have helped. I was stuck between going nowhere, or rolling down a slippery slope, literally.

Eventually a couple driving north to camp showed up and kindly helped me get the bike back on the road. But having no working brakes was still an elephant sized problem. I was at least a couple of hours from the nearest town in an area without cell phone reception. The man rummaged around in the back of his car and appeared with a set of vice grips. Vice grips are like pliers which lock into position. If you’ve ever heard of ‘Kiwi ingenuity’ or ‘Number 8 wire’ mentality and have wondered what that means – well this is it; in the positive sense it’s fixing stuff with what you have available. We managed to lock the vice grips onto the stump of my front brake in a way which would give me satisfactory braking from slow speeds, maybe 30% of normal capacity, but enough to get me to a garage – slowly.

I thanked the man and his wife for saving me in my moment of need, and at my suggestion I took down his name and phone number so that I could later contact him and give him his vice grips back. I rode off with a warm fuzzy feeling at the kindness of these random strangers, and with thoughts of how nice it would be to send a box of chocolates or a bottle of wine as well as the vice grips back later.

Without his help and his intuitive brake fixing idea my failure to stay on the road would no doubt have ended up in a very expensive towing bill and a lot more of my time.

When I was safely home and no longer needed the vice grips I dialed his phone number. Continuous beeping. I tried a number of times for a number of months but never did manage to get hold of him; I believe I must have taken down the number wrong, and I couldn’t find their names listed in the phone book either.

I’ve often wondered if in that moment of careless communication if I inadvertently destroyed someone’s faith in humankind. But strangely, not hearing back from Jesse, may have helped me realise that you don’t need a response from someone to be content knowing you tried to do a good thing.

——

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Bio: Sam is a Kiwi who spend the first five years of his early schooling not at school, but travelling the world with his parents and younger sister. Skip forward ten years and he decided to travel again; with a backpack and no particular time frame he set off to see the world. Away since May 2010, Sam has travelled in Thailand, all over Europe and North America where he is currently living in Montreal, Canada. Right now Sam is planning for a two month trip through Alaska with his girlfriend Renee in August before returning to New Zealand.

Sam writes at http://samsplayground.com/ and tweets @SamKynmanCole

46 Comments

  • Uptourist says:

    There is still good in this world. As long as you align yourself with it, you’ll find that everything you need will come to you. Sure, it will take some time and sometimes, you may not be that lucky. But it will happen.

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  • Germo Bailey says:

    Great story and great lessons to be learned from your experiences. You gave Jesse your $20 bill and you never heard from him again; you were his passing angel in his life just for that particular reason. You received the vice grips from the couple and you have not been able contact them again; they were your temporary angel passing through your life for a single purpose, which they completed. I think it’s all about reaping what we sow from one and other. As human beings we create our own faith in humankind by doing our part and not expecting anything in return.

  • Although I have received help on several occasions from random strangers, I recently found myself on the giving side of things. I was at a gas station and from the car in front of me out came a man who looked very concerned. Apparently, he had left his wallet at home and just needed a few dollars to get back. He asked for $5. I gave him $10 and when I turned to leave he insisted on getting my information so that he could pay me back. I haven’t seen the money yet- but I felt good all day long. Regardless of whether the money shows up or not, I’m glad I could put some good Karma out into the world.

  • Yes Indeed! The world out there is not unhelpful and cruel as we are made to believe! And only when we step on the road will we be able to fully realize that!

    Cheers
    Venky

  • Belle says:

    Hope you were ok falling off your bike!!

  • Sam says:

    Hi Matthew, you’re right, it’s silly to try interpret and write down someone else’s contact details when they’re no doubt perfectly capable of doing it themselves. I’ll make a point of this in the future.

  • I’ve had similar mis-communications when taking down contact details – it sucks. Now I always give the paper/iphone to the other person and let them write their own details down. 😀

    Great story though.

  • Laurence says:

    That is a lovely story. And maybe the first stranger lost your e-mail address too.. there’s always room for hope 😉

    • Sam says:

      Yes, good point! And looking at both our situations I’d say he has far more legitimate excuses for losing my email address – heck, it must have been about 4 in the morning.

  • Sabina says:

    Accidents while traveling are so not fun. I once fell on my face onto a pile of rocks – and I mean literally my face, not even having time to get my hands out to break my fall – while hiking alone when I was living in Israel. I was quite bloody and dazed afterwards and by the grace of God managed to make it through the rest of the mountain and back to my apartment, which took about 45 minutes. Once I cleaned up, my face still looked pretty bad, but at least I’ve got a story to tell 🙂

  • Callie says:

    I love hearing stories that remind me how good people can be (we hear so much about the bad!).

  • oh no! that sucks that you couldn’t contact them, but I dont think it would have destroyed their faith in humanity. people who like helping people will continue to do it despite the outcome

    • Sam says:

      I hope it didn’t! And I think you’re right, they didn’t seem like the type who expected to hear back. It’s just frustrating that I said I would, and I didn’t.

  • Abby says:

    Beautifully written, professional story. And wow, what an inspiration.

  • Emme Rogers says:

    I hope it wasn’t your motorbike that you were riding after drinking, in which case you are very lucky something more serious didn’t happen.

    • Sam says:

      No it was my bicycle. I think I fell off because I was actually going too slowly up the hill and my balance was a bit off… No motorcycle for me in Canada :-(.

      Kids, don’t drink and bicycle.

  • Doc Wends says:

    it means that our random acts of kindness get returned to us in so many ways and fret not if Jesse hasn’t emailed yet, who knows, your paths cross again and you will recognize the man you have $20 on the crossroad. I know Jesse is grateful you had helped him.

    Cheers from the Philippines 🙂

  • Sam says:

    Here is a short video clip from my motorcycle trip up the Corromandel Peninsula in New Zealand. Not terribly interesting, this was actually my first attempt at making video footage and I didn’t do anything with it for years. But it adds context to this story. http://youtu.be/qpjoUhGPv2E

  • Arti says:

    This goes on to show that good people still exist in this world. Glad that you were not hurt.
    Have a wonderful week ahead Samuel 🙂

  • I like a story that has a happy ending, and a positive message is a bonus.

    Enjoyed it a lot.

    Keep on trucking.

  • Rob of Masai Mara Wildebeest Migration 2012 says:

    Thats very true, Karma follows you wherever you go and may be helping jesse also gave you good tidings in your travel. Most people actually help out others not expecting anything back.Just like you gave him a $20. Whats is even more important is when the guy you helped calls to say thanks….guess you’ll never get to do that.

  • In my experience, the vast majority of people in the world are good. And I’ve been to a lot of places!

  • Gina says:

    Loved how you tied these two stories together. I think good karma was in your favor. 🙂

    • Sam says:

      Thank you. I started out to just write about my recent experience with Jesse and falling of my bicycle, but it slowly dawned on me that I’d had a similar, but slightly reversed situation years ago. I was glad I was able to bring them together.

  • Martie says:

    I so wanted to hear at the end that he contacted you, but you are right you got more out of it than him. Safe travels…love reading where you have been and are going.
    Martie

    • Sam says:

      Yes, for a while I was hoping to hear from him. Mainly to reassure myself that he wasn’t just having me on with his story. But it doesn’t matter, it reminded me about the kindness after my motorcycle accident which was a big help at the time.

  • I loved this post, just beautiful!

  • Ali says:

    It’s great when something like this happens and shows you there are nice people everywhere. And I’m glad you didn’t hurt yourself!

  • Sam says:

    I certainly agree, wouldn’t have wanted to walk from there.

  • It’s good that you were able to get help when you needed it!

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