Arment: Turn away from the Sirens call

I was feeling good about myself, as thunder rolled and lightning traced jagged teeth across the sky. I had just helped push someone’s vehicle out of a flooded intersection, and was still riding that high every good Samaritan gets when they do something selfless for someone else — although since I do it for the rush, maybe it’s less than selfless.

Even though the weather outside was scary on a biblical scale, I wasn’t worried. The journey to my humble abode on campus only consisted of a scant few more blocks. I was confident that having made it from Boone to Ames that it wouldn’t be a problem.

Turning left on Hayward from going eastbound on Mortensen, I saw a car stalled out in a large puddle that had formed in a low spot in the road. Being so close to home, I heard the call of my bed competing with the voice in my head telling me to help the stalled vehicle. My eyes darted right, to the entrance of the parking lot in front of the giant, dreary concrete dormitories. I thought that maybe I could duck into the lot and ride what looked to be higher ground parallel to the stalled car to non-flooded streets just a few blocks north.

The sultry voice of my pillow won out, but it proved to be a Sirens song. As I moved northbound through the parking lot, I ran into knee-high water that stalled my car out.

I sat there for a second. I didn’t swear, I just assessed the situation calmly. “I’ve got to get out and push my car back up hill, that’s all there is to it,” I thought to myself as I opened my car door and water gushed into my car.

The knee-deep water rose to my thighs as I crouched down to put my back into pushing the car out of the flood. The torrent of water rushing down to the drains located in the middle of the concave parking lot tore off one of my sandals; debris being swept along by the watery onslaught slapped against my legs, leaving trails of slime.

When I finally managed to push the car to higher ground, I looked like I had walked off of a movie set — clothes beyond soaked, hair matted, cutoff Marine Corps green utility trousers tattered, and tattoos showing beneath the slime. I looked the part of a homeless Vietnam veteran.

Standing there in the lot, looking at the horizon wondering what to do next while rain drops plummeted to join the water rushing past me, I felt the presence of authority. To my left a squad car had rolled up while I had been pushing my car out of the water. A sense of relief rushed over me, and I crossed the lot — my feet slip, slapping on the pavement —and walked over the sidewalk and into the calf-high water on the street. I was just thinking about what I was going to say, I mean what was there to say? Before I could answer that question, a voice bellowed out, “Stop right there!” as the police car door swung open.

I froze midstep, with one foot hovering above the water. “Can I approach the vehicle?” I asked, careful to keep my hands at my sides and not to make any sudden moves.

“No! In fact, don’t even come into the water,” an officer replied.

I slogged back to the muddy grass by the sidewalk and turned back to the police car with a look on my face that I’m sure spoke volumes of the kind of turn my night had taken.

“Sorry,” the officer shouted. “You just never know about some people.” Then he slammed his door.

I was just starting to ponder how this figured into “Protect and Serve” when I noticed a civilian car about 20 meters in front of the officer’s squad car. Expecting to be rewarded for the good karma I had generated earlier for being a good Samaritan, my spirits lifted.

I slogged away from the police car and up the sidewalk. Right when I was within hailing distance of the car, the driver succumbed to the voice in his head calling him to his bed and he stepped on the gas.

What I hadn’t taken into account about my karma — if you want to call it that, I think of it more as momentum — is that I had blown off the second stalled car and chosen to pursue my own selfish desires.

That’s going to be easy to do in the next few days. With the weather being borderline apocalyptic and school approaching, there will be agendas vying for your attention that will tell you to only think of yourself.

Don’t fall for the Sirens song. Look out for yourself and others in times of trouble.