It ranks among the most sobering sights you’re likely to encounter along the road, a disturbing tableau of isolation and helplessness.  Reflected there, in microcosm, is one measure of our relentlessly onrushing society, one often with little time or patience for those who lag behind, meet with misfortune, or fall by the wayside.

You’ve come upon this scene many a time.  A car broken down, immobilized on the road, hazard lights pulsing.  The hood is up, the vehicle apparently smoking.  The driver is either inside attempting to get it started or standing out in front, grim-faced, hoping somehow to get assistance.  It’s a motorist’s worst nightmare, and there it is coming up straight ahead of you. To most drivers it’s a nuisance, an “obstacle” that has slowed them up, forced them to change lanes in order to pass on by.  They may gaze over out of curiosity, perhaps even pity, but few are disposed to stop – “It’s too dangerous,” “I’m already late for work,” “What could I do anyway?” or “It’s his fault, he should have checked the car out.”  Then the moment passes in an instant; it’s too late now.  There’s no turning back.

You console yourself.  He’ll get it started.  Help will arrive.  A cop’s certain to show up soon.  Someone is bound to stop. He’s got to have a cellphone.  No doubt one of these will happen at some point.  But you can’t help but feel a bit guilty, at least until you reach the next bend in the road, and the marooned motorist is well out of sight.

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