I See Stupid People

I don’t typically think of other people as stupid. I realize they may have different information or a different background than my own, or that the information they’ve been given wasn’t as clear as it should be. But every so often, like last Friday, I do run across someone who is epically stupid, to the point of endangering herself as well as others.

We had just gotten on the road to Reno when Peter suddenly had to brake hard. He’d seen a car in front of him run up the freeway divider, then speed up to pass and cut off a bunch of vehicles. When the car stopped on the side of the freeway, he (as a good Samaritan) pulled over in front of it to see if the driver was ok.

She and her elementary-school-aged daughter were fine, but there were clearly more than a few marbles missing. When Peter pointed out to her that the front right tire was flat, and that she needed to call AAA or a tow truck service to get towed and to get it fixed, she seemed unable to comprehend the statement or its consequences. She was going to be late meeting a friend, she said, who was “just a few miles” away, and that she intended to just drive the car there, as is, and deal with the problem there. Peter pointed out that doing so was not only dangerous, but it would also almost certainly destroy the tire rim and possibly the axle as well, causing repair costs in the hundreds or thousands, while a tow and tire repair would be about $50. Hmm, a $1000 repair, or a $50 one. Hmmmmmm….

Of course she didn’t have AAA: that would be the responsible thing to do. She told Peter the car wasn’t really hers, but that she’d borrowed it from a friend. You could almost see the implied message that she didn’t want to pay for a tow truck, because she’d have to actually pay that; but if she managed to get the car to lurch and wobble to her next destination, she’d be there, whereupon she could call the poor friend who’d loaned her the car and complain that it wasn’t working right, and he’d be stuck with the repair.

Peter saw no reasonable option but to put on a spare for her. He asked her to pull out the spare tire, and she seemed surprised that there was such a thing, but to her credit, found it in the trunk underneath a pile of junk. As Peter jacked up the flat tire, she exclaimed “it doesn’t look flat now!” No shit, Sherlock! Peter pulled off the flat tire and the wheel, and she took it and threw it into the bushes on the side of the freeway. Peter yelled at her to put it in the trunk. Not only was it littering, but the rim itself is worth quite a bit. Reluctantly she picked it up and put it in the trunk. Meanwhile, we watched her daughter scratch her butt in public and try to walk up the the roadway above us.

The job was done, and we pulled away, leaving her behind us, as Peter had to stop in at the office to wash his now-greasy hands and mop off grease from his pants. I complained that it was no good helping people like that, and that we just should have called the CHP, but Peter pointed out that had we done that, she probably would have driven off and caused an accident before the CHP arrived. But, really, how do you get into the mindset that destroying a borrowed car and/or throwing parts of it like trash onto the side of the road is acceptable behavior? I later speculated that the car may have been stolen, but given that the daughter’s toys were all over the back seat, Peter thought our original opinion of extraordinary stupidity and irresponsibility were more like the case.

It seemed like we drove past a myriad of accidents on the way to Reno that day, but we didn’t stop for any more of them.

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