I have spent a lot of time talking, directly or indirectly, about duty. I am by no means any sort of authority on the subject. I have, however, spent some time contemplating what it means to recognize DUTY, to attempt to measure up to one’s duty, to accomplish Duty, and consider what my Duty might be in this or that circumstance.
Let me tell you about a man, who went above and beyond. This is not tale of derring do, of valiant action in combat, or hazardous duty, rather it is the story of a MAN who stood up in circumstances where I could not, and went way, way out of his way to do a good deed for a stranger.
A couple of years ago, in The Maternal State, they had a sizable blizzard. Now, being in or near the northern tier of states, this should be no big deal: winter, Up North, snow, so whucking fhat, amirite?
Yeah, that is generally my go-to response. Well, lemme tell you, this was somewhat more snow, and more wind, and more nastiness than is the baseline for this part of The Maternal State. Power lines iced up, and, swaying in the wind, well, they snapped, in multiple locations. Oops, power outage.
So, my mother is in her 90’s. At this time, pretty independent, but, still, 90 plus, and on the order of 800 miles from her nearest family.
My brother had anticipated the weather, and done some internet reconnaissance. He had identified a hotel in the next town, and, calling the reservation number (remember THAT thought!), had been told that the hotel in question did have an auxiliary generator, and would be in service. He therefore had made a reservation for our mother, securing, he thought, a heated safe place for her.
He filled me in on his plan, but had no idea of how to get her from her, now unheated, house to the hotel. As you might have considered, there was NO FREAKING WAY we wanted Mom driving in this mess. I called the taxicab companies local to my mother, only to find that none of them were answering their dispatch telephones. Shit.
I phoned the local police department, and spoke with the sergeant on duty. He pointed out that while he, and the officers on duty, were certainly willing to make sure my mother made it to the hotel, well, they were kind of busy (read, “extremely”) doing, ya know, POLICE stuff occasioned by the storm, the basic level of idiocy amongst the population in general and The Maternal State in particular, and the way poor weather exacerbates the foregoing. He did not see this happening in any clinically significant time frame. Shit. Again.
I let my fingers do the walking among the internet search results for “transportation services” in The Maternal State, and the Maternal County. I recalled my brother, The World Traveler (not the hotel finder) had spoken of hiring a car service to travel from The Maternal Manse to the airport, or vice versa. I called several car services, and, finally, reached one who answered his phone.
We had a lovely conversation about the weather, and how and why it seemed unlikely that I would find a taxi company who would answer their phone. He, himself, answered his own phone, only because he took this opportunity to come into the office to complete some sort of paperwork.
I told him my tale of woe, featuring my elderly mother, distant children, and so forth. He asked me for her address, and where the arrangements had been made for her accommodation. He told me that he’d swing by, check up on my mother, and give me a call with his appraisal of things. I thanked him, effusively, and awaited his call.
Something around an hour later, I received a phone call. Mom was fine. My new friend, calling me on his personal cell phone, provided me the opportunity to speak with my mother. She asked me who this guy was, and I recounted the story of my brother’s hotel efforts, and how this fellow answered his phone, which, by itself, set him apart from everybody else in her corner of the state. I told her that he could/would transport her to the hotel for heated accommodations. She thought that was a great idea, and handed to phone back to the Car Guy. Shortly, I received a call from him reporting that he had Mom, and her little dog, were on the way to The Hotel. Again, with effusive thanks, I awaited the next situation report.
I received it, and it was infuriating. It appears that the national reservation folks for The Cretin Hotel Chain (by the way, I apologize to cretins, everywhere, for maligning their good name!), (a) did not know a goddamned thing about the power status, or lack thereof, in the subject property, (b) could not possibly care less about said power status, unless somehow The Creator elected to Personally and directly intervene, in a biblical display of His power, to motivate these gormless fuckwads to pretend that they might appear to give a shit (not that they might actually do anything effective to support that pretense. Even The Creator Of All has some limitations upon His power!), (c) would happily spin any line of bullshit that might result in their establishing a reservation, and (d) if kharma actually was a thing, would spend eternity sleeping outdoors, on some forsaken ice floe, adrift on a freezing gale swept ocean of sewage, with a solitary hospital “blanket” to protect themselves from a shivering, frozen, blue demise. If Crom was merciful. Which I hoped He would not be.
You might not be surprised, at this point, to learn that the hotel had no power and no heat.
I just might, one day, tell y’all how I REALLY feel. Assholes. (and I mean no slight to assholes).
My new friend, and Mom’s chauffeur, reported his plan to personally reconnoiter other hotels in the vicinity and report back to me. He did so, and he called me: no joy. None had power, so none had heat. Shit. Again. Again.
So, my new friend drove Mom home, and, arriving and ushering her inside, put her on his phone. Mom felt OK, the house was only around 50 something which, while chilly, was only unpleasant, not life threatening. She had canned food, a Sterno stove, the food in the fridge seemed in no danger of thawing (unsurprisingly, right?), and she had several blankets for cozy sleeping.
I thanked my new friend, again, and again, and bade everybody goodbye.
I spoke to Mom later that night, when one of her neighbors, charged cell phone in hand, stopped by with a hot meal (they had a camp-stove, it seems). Mom was doing OK, the neighbor (PBUH!) came on to reassure me that his appraisal was that Mom was managing OK, and he, the neighbor, would check in on her in the morning.
The next morning, the Car Service Guy called me. He had stopped by Mom’s house, and reported that he found her reading, swathed in a blanket, drinking a cup of (Sterno stove) coffee, eating a cold bagel. He put her on the phone, and she concurred in his report. He came back on, reported that the news was predicting power would be restored in a day or two. We chatted a bit, I thanked him, again. Again. Again. And he slogged back home, driving through the ass deep snow.
I received a call the next morning. Mom was chirpily informing me that the power was on, she had had a lovely, lengthy, hot shower, was cooking a casserole to have, hot, for dinner, and presently was enjoying a hot cup of coffee, and hot muffin. Her second of the day.
So, all is well that ends well, right?
Let me tell you MY take away. God has blessed us with angels. Some we cannot see as they are spirits. Other walk among us.
One exemplar is this guy, warm and dry in his office, piddling around, grateful that he did not have to be out in the butt ugly weather afflicting his hometown. He received a phone call from Sumdood, who he had never met, from Ghawd Only knows where, spinning this tale of his mama who allegedly lived nearby, had no power, and needed somebody, NOT the caller, to chauffeur her tail to refuge. Oh, and her little dog, too!
So, did he tell me to FOAD? Did he tell me it would be a profound pain in his ass? Did he tell me it was not his job? No, no, and no. He gathered the information that would be required to conduct an in person reconnaissance of her circumstances, and promised to report back to me. He did so.
He helped Mom gather her crap for her voyage, and drove her, her luggage, and her dog, to the local property of The Cretin Hotel Chain. Finding that my brother had been bullshitted by the dickless, hapless, shitheads at the Cretin Hotel Chain’s national reservation operation, he called me with this insight, and attempted to find alternate accommodations for my mother. Failing in this quest, he drove her home (through the awful roads associated with an awful storm in winter in the northern tier of states, mind you!), schlepped her stuff inside, attempted to assure her safety, and comfort, and called me. Again. On his personal cell phone.
Then, the next day, with the same (or worse) shitty roads, he got out of his nice warm bed, and drove to my mother’s house, again, to check on her safety. And called me with a progress report. She was chilly, but fine.
Thus far, only mentioned in passing, are the Blessed Souls that are her neighbors. She’s not their mother. They did not grow up in her neighborhood. Simply, they are NEIGHBORS, in the finest traditions of small town America. God Bless Them. They visited, in turns, several times each day the power was out, bringing hot food, visiting, offering to charge her phone (and, just so you know, it works way, way better with a charge on the battery!), and generally being guardian angels for her.
She could not have lived there alone, for as long as she in fact did, without their oversight and backup.
TL/DR summary? Somebody is setting me a good example. I resolve to try to imitate it.