×

We use cookies to help make LingQ better. By visiting the site, you agree to our cookie policy.


image

This American Life, 75: Kindness of Strangers (2)

75: Kindness of Strangers (2)

The left elbow rests on the right wrist and the forearm goes straight up, the fingers at the lips. I pull the slim jim out. "Harder than you thought, huh?" She says.

"Some foreign cars are tough," I say.

"Can I try?"

"You want to try?"

"Yeah. Who knows? Maybe it'll be like beginners luck. It looks like fun."

I don't know why, but I say, "sure." I slide the slim jim through the space between the window and the rubber stripping. She takes the end of it.

"Like this?" she asks, moving it back and forth like a slot machine handle.

"No," I say. "Actually, you kind of go like this." I take her hand, move it up and down slowly, bobbing the end of the tool slightly from side to side. We're doing a kind of slim jim tango, dipping in and out and up and down. The car door won't open, but she doesn't even seem perturbed. It's like we're playing a game. "I'm going to try to pick it," I say.

"Can I still do this?" she asks.

"Sure. I'll work on the other door." As I step away, we suddenly hear Tarzan again. It's louder this time. He must be on a lower floor. It's a particularly beautiful call, and he really trails out the last note.

The woman bends over double and slaps her thighs in rapid fashion. "I love that," she cries. "That is just fabulous."

"Local color," I say. I take my can of WD-40 and lubricate the cylinder.

"That guy should be on TV, or something." I squat by the other side of the car. I insert the tension bar in the cylinder and hold it down with my thumb. And then I work the rake through several times.

After a couple of minutes, I'm starting to get frustrated. I say, "I'll be right back. I'm going to get something else." I run to my car and remove the metal doweling I bought on Canal Street for this very situation. It's long and sturdy but pliable. I bring it back across the street. "Here," I say, "you hold this." She lays the slim jim down on the sidewalk. I insert a large screwdriver between the door and the body of the car. "Just put a little pressure on it. Like this," I say as I push back. "That'll give me room to maneuver."

She stands behind me and pushes back on the screwdriver. I bend the end of the dowel into an L and slide it in. I push it toward the button which is in an impossible spot on the door panel, just behind the handle. I'm thinking, this car really is a pain in the ass. I wiggle my end of the dowel and poke at the area of the button, but I keep missing. "How does that button work?" I ask. "Do you push it forward, or in, or what?"

"Gee," she says. "I don't know. Let me think." She bobs her head slowly side to side and finally says, "in, I think. I think." I keep poking at the button. Once I hit it square on and let out a whoop. But when I try the door it doesn't open.

"Damn," I yell and slam my fist down on top of the Porsche.

"Hey," she says, "come on. We'll get it." She puts her hand on my arm. "You know, you're really a sweet guy for helping me out." She leans forward and kisses me on the cheek.

When Deborah said goodbye to me at the airport, she said, "maybe you and I should take the next few days to reevaluate." Then she put her hand on my upper arm and kissed me on the cheek.

"Let's try it again," the woman says. "Listen," I say, "I'm sorry. I'm just frustrated. I usually don't have this much trouble."

"It's OK," she says. "I know we're going to get it this time." She punches the air like a cheerleader.

We try again. I twist the dowel around to get it in just the right position and then push it forward with my hand so it will come smashing into the button. The door doesn't open. I do it again and again. As my body bumps into the woman's and rubs up against her, I get more and more crazy. I can feel my hero status evaporating. Finally, after about 15 minutes, she says, "you know, I think if I push this way with the screwdriver, it'll make more room. I think it'll be a lot easier for you."

Before I can stop her, she leans against the car and pushes. There's a loud crack. The window shatters into pieces which fall on the sidewalk at our feet. I look at her face. Her mouth is wide open, her shoulders raised in embarrassment. Then, suddenly, she opens the door, brushes the glass off the seat with her bag and gets in. "Well, I got to go," she says. She starts the car. "I don't know how to thank you." She speeds off toward Eighth Avenue. "Goodbye," she calls out.

I am stunned by the swiftness of her departure. As I watch her drive off, her hand waving out the window, Tarzan gives his grand finale. His voice is so strong that it sounds like he's right behind me. His call begins with one beautiful, long, sustained note. He holds it longer than I have ever heard before. Then he leaps into a spectacular trill which ends with another gorgeous full note and follows this with a second trill, which trails off into a final, eerie, haunting tone.

I turn to face the parking structure. I'm standing in the middle of a pile of my discarded tools and broken glass. I lean my head way back, looking up at the sky. I cup my hands around my mouth, take the deepest possible breath, and yell at the top of my lungs, "shut the hell up!" Ira Glass Joel Kostman's stories of his life as a locksmith are in his book Keys to the City.

[MUSIC - "BOLT" BY BEN LEE] Act Two: Runaway Ira Glass Act Two, Runaway. When you commit an act of kindness for a stranger, where can it lead? In 1940, Jack Geiger was 14 years old, not getting along with his parents. Because of the odd rules of the New York City schools at that time, he had actually finished high school, but no college would let him in so young. He wasn't getting along with his parents, fought with them all the time, and then he went to see a play. Jack Geiger Native Son, Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre Production of the Richard Wright novel which starred a black actor named Canada Lee. And I was very moved by that. And with the brashness of a 14-year-old, I went backstage afterwards and found Canada Lee and hung around and talked with him a while. And I liked that so much that I did that three or four more times. Ira Glass Do you recall what it is that you were talking to him about, what you wanted to him about? Jack Geiger Well, we started out talking about the play and Richard Wright and the main character, Bigger Thomas, and race relations in the United States. And pretty soon we got around to-- by the second or third conversation at least-- what was going on in my life and what I wanted to do and my conflicts and so on. He learned a lot more about me than I did about him, I think, at that point in those conversations.

And then one day when the conflict at home just a lot tougher, I waited until a Sunday when I knew there was no performance of Native Son. And my folks were out, and I packed a bag, and I took a subway up to the top of Sugar Hill in Harlem, 555 Edgecombe Avenue, where I knew that Canada had a penthouse. And I went up and rang the doorbell. And he was home and opened the door. And I said, Lee, the stuff at home is just getting too much and I thought maybe I could stay here for a while. Cold, just like that. And he kind of looked around and pointed to a couch in the living room and said, well, I guess you could sleep over there.

After I had gone to sleep that evening, I later learned, he called my folks and said, look, I'll send him back in the morning. But why don't you let him stay here, because I'm not sure where he's going to land the next time. And my parents must have been so exhausted by all of this that they agreed, at least tentatively. And that was the beginning of a whole year that I really lived there and had one of the great educational experiences of my life.

Through that apartment, over that year that I remember, came the kind of the cream of the Harlem theatrical, sporting, civil rights, political, and intellectual world. And I had the chance to sit around evening after evening, many weekends, listening to Langston Hughes, William Saroyan, Adam Clayton Powell, Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington's arranger, Richard Wright, who came back once from exile and stopped in. And what I remember most is listening to people, listening to the conversations about World War II and race and democracy, segregation in the armed forces, what was happening in the South, what was happening in New York City. Ira Glass Let me ask you to assess what you think your parents' reaction was when they got this first call from Canada Lee, to have their white, Jewish, middle-class son suddenly up living with a black man in Harlem in the early '40s. Jack Geiger Well, I think they were exhausted. We had had so much struggle. A little later, I remember, further on, when we were talking to each other again, Lee was giving a party and invited my parents, who, with great trepidation, came up to Harlem at night-- I don't think they had ever done that before-- and came to this party. And Canada, I remember, turned to my mother and said, hey, I'm a bachelor. Do you think you could help us out in the kitchen? It was a big party. And my mother said, sure.

The next day, I talked to my mother on the phone and she said she had had the most wonderful time, had spent a couple of hours in the kitchen with this wonderful man, and they'd had all this conversation. And I said, who was it? She said, well, she didn't know. She'd never gotten the name. And I said, well, describe him. And she discovered that she had spent two hours chatting with Langston Hughes and was mortified that she had never realized it. Ira Glass What did they talk about? Jack Geiger You had to have met Langston Hughes to know. He was as comfortable as an old shoe. And I'm sure they talked about cooking. And I'm sure they talked about whatever else my mother wanted to talk about. And she never quite got over it and still recalled it.

During that year, he was kind of an informal, surrogate father. And I was in that stage where I wasn't going to take anything from the parents I was fighting with. So he staked me to a good bit of my first year at college when I found a place that would finally let me in. And-- Ira Glass So he paid for your school? Jack Geiger Well, he loaned me the money. Ira Glass Instead of your parents? Jack Geiger Yeah. It wasn't until a little later that I figured out why, unconsciously maybe, I had made the choice that I did.


75: Kindness of Strangers (2)

The left elbow rests on the right wrist and the forearm goes straight up, the fingers at the lips. Le coude gauche repose sur le poignet droit et l'avant-bras remonte droit, les doigts aux lèvres. I pull the slim jim out. Je sors le Slim Jim. 我把苗条的吉姆拉出来。 "Harder than you thought, huh?" She says.

"Some foreign cars are tough," I say.

"Can I try?"

"You want to try?"

"Yeah. Who knows? Maybe it'll be like beginners luck. It looks like fun."

I don't know why, but I say, "sure." I slide the slim jim through the space between the window and the rubber stripping. Je fais glisser le slim jim dans l'espace entre la fenêtre et le décapage en caoutchouc. She takes the end of it.

"Like this?" she asks, moving it back and forth like a slot machine handle.

"No," I say. "Actually, you kind of go like this." I take her hand, move it up and down slowly, bobbing the end of the tool slightly from side to side. Je lui prends la main, la déplace lentement de haut en bas, faisant légèrement bouger le bout de l'outil d'un côté à l'autre. We're doing a kind of slim jim tango, dipping in and out and up and down. The car door won't open, but she doesn't even seem perturbed. It's like we're playing a game. "I'm going to try to pick it," I say. “我要试着把它摘下来,”我说。

"Can I still do this?" she asks.

"Sure. I'll work on the other door." As I step away, we suddenly hear Tarzan again. It's louder this time. He must be on a lower floor. It's a particularly beautiful call, and he really trails out the last note. 这是一个特别漂亮的电话,他真的拖出了最后一个音符。

The woman bends over double and slaps her thighs in rapid fashion. 女人弯下腰,飞快地拍打大腿。 "I love that," she cries. "That is just fabulous." “那真是太棒了。”

"Local color," I say. I take my can of WD-40 and lubricate the cylinder. 我拿起我的 WD-40 罐并润滑汽缸。

"That guy should be on TV, or something." I squat by the other side of the car. I insert the tension bar in the cylinder and hold it down with my thumb. 我将拉杆插入气缸中并用拇指按住它。 And then I work the rake through several times. 然后我把耙子翻了好几次。

After a couple of minutes, I'm starting to get frustrated. 几分钟后,我开始感到沮丧。 I say, "I'll be right back. I'm going to get something else." 我去拿别的东西。” I run to my car and remove the metal doweling I bought on Canal Street for this very situation. 我跑到我的车前,取下我在运河街为这种情况买的金属销钉。 It's long and sturdy but pliable. I bring it back across the street. "Here," I say, "you hold this." She lays the slim jim down on the sidewalk. I insert a large screwdriver between the door and the body of the car. 我在车门和车身之间插入一把大螺丝刀。 "Just put a little pressure on it. Like this," I say as I push back. "That'll give me room to maneuver."

She stands behind me and pushes back on the screwdriver. I bend the end of the dowel into an L and slide it in. 我将销钉的末端弯曲成 L 形并将其滑入。 I push it toward the button which is in an impossible spot on the door panel, just behind the handle. 我将它推向门板上不可能的位置的按钮,就在把手后面。 I'm thinking, this car really is a pain in the ass. 我在想,这车真是个蛋疼的东西。 I wiggle my end of the dowel and poke at the area of the button, but I keep missing. 我扭动定位销的一端,戳了一下按钮区域,但我一直没找到。 "How does that button work?" “那个按钮是怎么工作的?” I ask. "Do you push it forward, or in, or what?"

"Gee," she says. "I don't know. Let me think." She bobs her head slowly side to side and finally says, "in, I think. I think." I keep poking at the button. Once I hit it square on and let out a whoop. But when I try the door it doesn't open.

"Damn," I yell and slam my fist down on top of the Porsche. “该死的,”我大喊一声,用拳头猛击保时捷车顶。

"Hey," she says, "come on. We'll get it." She puts her hand on my arm. "You know, you're really a sweet guy for helping me out." “你知道吗,你真是个好人,能帮我解决问题。” She leans forward and kisses me on the cheek. 她身体前倾,亲吻我的脸颊。

When Deborah said goodbye to me at the airport, she said, "maybe you and I should take the next few days to reevaluate." 当黛博拉在机场与我告别时,她说:“也许你和我应该在接下来的几天里重新评估一下。” Then she put her hand on my upper arm and kissed me on the cheek. 然后她把手放在我的上臂上,亲吻了我的脸颊。

"Let's try it again," the woman says. "Listen," I say, "I'm sorry. I'm just frustrated. I usually don't have this much trouble."

"It's OK," she says. "I know we're going to get it this time." She punches the air like a cheerleader.

We try again. I twist the dowel around to get it in just the right position and then push it forward with my hand so it will come smashing into the button. The door doesn't open. I do it again and again. As my body bumps into the woman's and rubs up against her, I get more and more crazy. 当我的身体撞上女人的身体并在她身上摩擦时,我变得越来越疯狂。 I can feel my hero status evaporating. 我能感觉到我的英雄地位正在消失。 Finally, after about 15 minutes, she says, "you know, I think if I push this way with the screwdriver, it'll make more room. Наконец, примерно через 15 минут она говорит: «Знаешь, я думаю, если я протолкну отверткой в эту сторону, освободится больше места. 最后,大约 15 分钟后,她说,“你知道,我想如果我用螺丝刀往这边推,会腾出更多空间。 I think it'll be a lot easier for you."

Before I can stop her, she leans against the car and pushes. There's a loud crack. 有一声巨响。 The window shatters into pieces which fall on the sidewalk at our feet. I look at her face. Her mouth is wide open, her shoulders raised in embarrassment. 她张大嘴巴,尴尬地耸起肩膀。 Then, suddenly, she opens the door, brushes the glass off the seat with her bag and gets in. "Well, I got to go," she says. She starts the car. "I don't know how to thank you." She speeds off toward Eighth Avenue. "Goodbye," she calls out.

I am stunned by the swiftness of her departure. As I watch her drive off, her hand waving out the window, Tarzan gives his grand finale. His voice is so strong that it sounds like he's right behind me. His call begins with one beautiful, long, sustained note. He holds it longer than I have ever heard before. Then he leaps into a spectacular trill which ends with another gorgeous full note and follows this with a second trill, which trails off into a final, eerie, haunting tone.

I turn to face the parking structure. I'm standing in the middle of a pile of my discarded tools and broken glass. I lean my head way back, looking up at the sky. I cup my hands around my mouth, take the deepest possible breath, and yell at the top of my lungs, "shut the hell up!" Я сжимаю ладони вокруг рта, делаю максимально глубокий вдох и кричу изо всех сил: «Заткнись, черт возьми!» 我用手捂住嘴,深吸一口气,用尽全力大喊:“他妈的给我闭嘴!” Ira Glass Joel Kostman's stories of his life as a locksmith are in his book Keys to the City. Ира Гласс Рассказы Джоэла Костмана о своей слесарной жизни в его книге «Ключи от города». Ira Glass Joel Kostman 锁匠生涯的故事收录在他的《城市钥匙》一书中。

[MUSIC - "BOLT" BY BEN LEE] Act Two: Runaway Ira Glass Act Two, Runaway. When you commit an act of kindness for a stranger, where can it lead? In 1940, Jack Geiger was 14 years old, not getting along with his parents. Because of the odd rules of the New York City schools at that time, he had actually finished high school, but no college would let him in so young. He wasn't getting along with his parents, fought with them all the time, and then he went to see a play. Jack Geiger Native Son, Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre Production of the Richard Wright novel which starred a black actor named Canada Lee. And I was very moved by that. 我对此非常感动。 And with the brashness of a 14-year-old, I went backstage afterwards and found Canada Lee and hung around and talked with him a while. And I liked that so much that I did that three or four more times. Ira Glass Do you recall what it is that you were talking to him about, what you wanted to him about? Jack Geiger Well, we started out talking about the play and Richard Wright and the main character, Bigger Thomas, and race relations in the United States. And pretty soon we got around to-- by the second or third conversation at least-- what was going on in my life and what I wanted to do and my conflicts and so on. He learned a lot more about me than I did about him, I think, at that point in those conversations.

And then one day when the conflict at home just a lot tougher, I waited until a Sunday when I knew there was no performance of Native Son. And my folks were out, and I packed a bag, and I took a subway up to the top of Sugar Hill in Harlem, 555 Edgecombe Avenue, where I knew that Canada had a penthouse. And I went up and rang the doorbell. And he was home and opened the door. And I said, Lee, the stuff at home is just getting too much and I thought maybe I could stay here for a while. Cold, just like that. And he kind of looked around and pointed to a couch in the living room and said, well, I guess you could sleep over there.

After I had gone to sleep that evening, I later learned, he called my folks and said, look, I'll send him back in the morning. But why don't you let him stay here, because I'm not sure where he's going to land the next time. And my parents must have been so exhausted by all of this that they agreed, at least tentatively. And that was the beginning of a whole year that I really lived there and had one of the great educational experiences of my life.

Through that apartment, over that year that I remember, came the kind of the cream of the Harlem theatrical, sporting, civil rights, political, and intellectual world. And I had the chance to sit around evening after evening, many weekends, listening to Langston Hughes, William Saroyan, Adam Clayton Powell, Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington's arranger, Richard Wright, who came back once from exile and stopped in. And what I remember most is listening to people, listening to the conversations about World War II and race and democracy, segregation in the armed forces, what was happening in the South, what was happening in New York City. Ira Glass Let me ask you to assess what you think your parents' reaction was when they got this first call from Canada Lee, to have their white, Jewish, middle-class son suddenly up living with a black man in Harlem in the early '40s. Jack Geiger Well, I think they were exhausted. We had had so much struggle. A little later, I remember, further on, when we were talking to each other again, Lee was giving a party and invited my parents, who, with great trepidation, came up to Harlem at night-- I don't think they had ever done that before-- and came to this party. And Canada, I remember, turned to my mother and said, hey, I'm a bachelor. Do you think you could help us out in the kitchen? It was a big party. And my mother said, sure.

The next day, I talked to my mother on the phone and she said she had had the most wonderful time, had spent a couple of hours in the kitchen with this wonderful man, and they'd had all this conversation. And I said, who was it? She said, well, she didn't know. She'd never gotten the name. And I said, well, describe him. And she discovered that she had spent two hours chatting with Langston Hughes and was mortified that she had never realized it. Ira Glass What did they talk about? Jack Geiger You had to have met Langston Hughes to know. He was as comfortable as an old shoe. And I'm sure they talked about cooking. And I'm sure they talked about whatever else my mother wanted to talk about. And she never quite got over it and still recalled it.

During that year, he was kind of an informal, surrogate father. And I was in that stage where I wasn't going to take anything from the parents I was fighting with. So he staked me to a good bit of my first year at college when I found a place that would finally let me in. And-- Ira Glass So he paid for your school? Jack Geiger Well, he loaned me the money. Ira Glass Instead of your parents? Jack Geiger Yeah. It wasn't until a little later that I figured out why, unconsciously maybe, I had made the choice that I did.