by Mary O’Brien, M.D.
I live in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. In the dead of winter, I’m grateful for that. Right now (during mid-summer), however, it’s the dead of “awful.” The temperature has been in the mid to high nineties for several weeks, and I suspect there may be lower humidity in a steam shower. For that added touch, traffic is terrible. Tourists are tripping over one another, and everyone is cranky. I’ve thought about moving to Alaska.
Yesterday, on the way home from the grocery store, I drove by a utility crew digging a huge ditch. For a split second, I caught the glance of a very large, burly man crawling out of a hole. He was covered with dirt and sweat. I thought he was about to collapse. In a heartbeat, the “do something” physician-part of me began to debate with the shy, introverted, aging woman part of me:
“This man is on the verge of heat exhaustion. I should stop and offer help. But with what? A trunk full of cereal, paper towels, and cat food? It’s really none of my business. This is their job. Besides, it’s probably not safe to pull over. Blah, blah, blah…” Perhaps you know the routine. I can debate myself for hours.
A mile down the road, I turned into my driveway — still conflicted. Then it dawned on me. “I am an idiot. This is not a difficult decision.” I dumped my groceries in the kitchen and grabbed what I could from the fridge: bottles of water; Coke; lemonade; and Hawaiian Punch. I know, I know — I have the taste buds of a ten-year old. Then, I raided my stash of ice cream bars from the freezer and headed back out. As I pulled up to the work site and got out, the crew looked baffled. I suspect the crew thought some fussy woman was about to start complaining about the mess or the congestion. It happens.
I explained I had driven by ten minutes earlier and was worried about them. When I pulled out the cold drinks and ice cream bars, their jaws dropped. They still looked as if they were about to fall over, but this time it was from shock. By the way, I’m not the only one with the taste buds of a ten-year old.
If you’re ever in a similar situation and you feel conflicted, choose the “random act of coolness.” You’ll feel better about everything all day long.