These are two true stories.
About 6 years ago, I was walking down Belmont headed home, when I saw a guy driving really fast down the cross-street. I knew he was going to try and run the yellow, so I waited for him to zoom past. On my right was a guy listening to his iPod and started to step into the street, as our light was now green. I grabbed his bag and yanked him a step back. The car zoomed right in front of us. He would have been flattened, and he knew it. He took off his headphones, “Holy crap, you saved my life.” I smiled and nodded, “You’re welcome.”
Yesterday, I stopped by the OccupyChicago location (it’s outside my building and on my way home), to chat with the folks I know. One guy had stickers, so I snagged some for other people I know who would love them. We were talking about how not all banks are evil (hey! I work for one!) and I glanced over at a woman crossing the street. The light was red (in our favor) and I remember thinking “She’s going to trip on that manhole.” See they’re repaving the street, and the manhole cover is above grade right now. She caught her toe and just went flying. I looked at the traffic (still red) and ran out waving my arms. There was a cop nearby and I yelled “Stop the cars!” He stepped out and was on his radio, and me and a couple of the Occupy folks were around this woman, making sure we were seen.
As we checked with her (did she hit her head, etc), the rest of the protesters came out and made a wall to stop traffic from coming anywhere near us. We walked the woman back to the sidewalk, where she assured us she was okay. I walked her to her train, and we chatted about how sore she’d be tomorrow (a hot shower, a bath, and a relaxing night, I suggested) and she thanked me again.
In neither of these moments did I think about trading names, or rewards, or anything silly like that. I just did the right thing. And it was easy. It reminds me of Little Orphan Annie (I know). I had this huge ’10 year collection’ book once Arf! The Life and Hard Times of Little Orphan Annie 1935-1945, and I remember one strip where Annie was walking down the street with a friend of her family-du-jour, talking about school and stuff. A car went whizzing past in panel 1, and in panel 3, a guy runs up and says that car robbed his store. Annie says “Oh yeah, it was a blue sedan, license yadda” and then carries on her conversation with her friend. The friend and the store-owner are both agog at how she just paid attention to things.
I took that to heart, as a kid, and always tried to pay attention to what was going on around me when I was walking down the street. I joke I have a +5 to perception based rolls because of it, but this is really just me training myself to be aware for most of my life. Now it’s my normal day. Take the train, pay attention to who sits where, what they wear, what they do, etc.
And I miss that book like you don’t even know. It was lost somewhere in the many moves since I was 12.