Recently, I was on the freeway headed to pick up M, who had carpooled to work. As I approached my exit, I saw a Toyota on the side of the road. A few yards ahead, I saw a senior woman in white pants and a bright yellow top, walking a bit wobbly away from the vehicle and toward the exit ramp. Since the speed limit is 70, it took me a while to stop and I parked my car on the exit ramp. I walked back toward the woman, who continued to walk toward me (away from her car) surveying the ground as she walked.
I shouted “Do you need help?” a few times, but traffic was so loud she couldn’t hear me. I saw her shield her eyes and look in my direction, smile, then look down, bend over, and pick up a piece of black plastic. She examined it, then threw it back down in the sandy shoulder of the road.
As we got closer, I asked again, “Do you need some help?”
She looked at me, smiled, and addressed me as though we were two neighbors meeting on our front stoop. No greeting; just casual chat as huge trucks whooshed past at high speed, all the while walking around, bending over to pick up shards of black plastic and inspect them, then throwing them down. “I was driving her a couple of weeks ago, and I couldn’t see well because my eyes were dilated, you know? I drove off the road onto this embankment and snapped part of my headlight off.”
“I saw you walking and wanted to see if you needed a ride or some kind of help…” I started to say. She didn’t even register my words and kept chatting and looking at the ground.
“I just went to the Toyota dealership and they said $110 so I thought I’d come out here and see if I could find that piece!”
“Oh, okay,” I said, realizing that she might need help but not the kind I could give. “I just wanted to make sure that you were okay.”
“Well, aren’t you sweet? It was the darnedest thing…I couldn’t see because my eyes were dilated,” she gave a little laugh. “But I hope I can find that piece.”
She continued to chatter to me and search for her car part that had snapped off two weeks ago, in an area with high winds and sand drifts. I tried to politely end the conversation, but eventually gave up and walked away once she reached a safe area away from traffic. I also made a note to be extra careful on the roads and to practice good defensive driving.
Desert living is going to be interesting.