One split-second decision can raise many timeless questions


Last Thursday, I was headed into work early, a little before 7 a.m., to finish a presentation for an important meeting that morning. It was 17 degrees on my car’s thermometer.

My drive follows the bike path that parallels a river. Traffic was lighter than usual and I was making good time. I was completely preoccupied with numbers and words and formatting all swirling around in my brain.

Then I spotted someone walking on the bike path. This in itself is not unusual … there are lots of people walking, running and cycling on the path in almost all weather. But as I drew closer, I saw that this person had no coat. In fact, he was walking in just pants, a white dress shirt, and the kind of long black apron you might see on a chef or caterer. His hands were thrust deep into his pants pockets.

I had seen catering trucks along my route before, so this sort of made sense. What didn’t make sense was that this person was out in sub-freezing weather without any warm gear, so, naturally, my first thought was that I should I offer to take him wherever he was going.

Immediately my second thought was: “Oh, god, my car is a mess.” No one could have gotten into the passenger side unless I moved my purse and briefcase, a week’s worth of mail, a water bottle, Christmas decorations, and a pair of strappy high heels I had taken off on New Year’s Eve because they hurt they feet.

My third thought was “What if it’s not safe to pick up this person?” And my next was that if I did this, I wouldn’t get to work in time to finish my presentation for the executives of my company.

And finally, “If I am cold here in my car with my heater … how must he be feeling?”

What did I do?

I drove on to work. After I had passed him, I seriously considered turning around and going back, although that would have made me even more late. So I just didn’t.

Obviously, this is still on my mind. I try to rationalize this by telling myself that I had no idea where he needed to go or why he was on the path at all. And, as it was, I ended up pulling copies off the printer right before I walked in the door to give my presentation. What it comes down to, for me, is that I guess I did the right thing … for myself.

What would you have done?

I really do try to be the type of person who lives what she believes, and what she speaks. I return grocery carts to the store because I don’t like it when other people leave them in parking lots. I pick up trash when I see it. I stop to see if I can help at car accidents. I want to be my brother’s and sister’s keeper.

And yet I wonder, what if an angel in the form of a caterer on foot in the winter had needed my help? I have no answer.

What would you have done?

Andrea Doray is a writer who knows you must wonder why her strappy heels from New Year’s Eve are still in her car. She has no answer. Contact her at


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