Written by NorCal member John Houston
My first Good Samaritan encounter was weird to say the least. Riding home from work a few weeks before Christmas I passed a Chinese woman running along the bike path next to the creek with a polythene bag and water dripping from it, I rode past slowly and nodded courteously – as she met my eye I could see something was wrong but I kept riding – I was tight for time to get home. I looked back and there was clearly something weird going on with the bag of water that was upsetting her, so I stopped the bike and waited as she came up to me “is everything Ok?” I asked “Do you need some help?” – she had tearful eyes as she held up the bag and I could see what looked like two large perch pressed into the corner of the bag gasping for oxygen with what was left of the water only partially covering their heads.
Her English was not good but it was obvious from her gesticulations she was trying to get the fish into the creek which was on the other side of the wall that ran alongside the bike path. The only problem was the next opening in the wall was about 1/2 a mile away.
I took the bag and she was trying to make sure that I knew what I had to do; she was making wavy fish tail impressions in the air with her hands and pointing over the wall. Clearly the weird Chinese lady with half dead fish in a bag had grave reservations about the weird man in orange and black lycra, and was not sure he was up to the task. “Yes, yes” I nodded – mission is understood I made some equally childish hand gestures showing fish and waving tails and a thumbs up sign and I clipped back in and headed along the bike path which was actually harder than I had expected with the big swinging bag of two large half dead fish and the ever lessening water – that would suddenly lurch about throwing me off balance.
I got to the gap in the wall and the embankment was pretty steep down to the water and I was cursing the stupidity of this “rescue mission” as my cleats got bogged down in the earth – I started wondering where these fish had come from and might there be a chance that they were some aggressive Asian invader species that would survive and devour all the little local Californian catfish or whatever the fish are that survive in these creeks.
As I opened the bag it did not look good for the two fish. There was barely any movement at all – one mouth was gasping and the other looked like it had already expired. I took the one that was still alive and laid it in the water – it started to float away with its eye staring at the sky but I held it with my hand and steered it into a deep pool, suddenly he did that thing that fish do as if someone had found the electric quick start button and he shot down into the pool clearly happy to be breathing again, then I turned my attention to the other one – still no sign of life, I laid him on my hand and placed it in the water and moved it forward, still laying flat, nothing. Then I thought I detected some movement so I held him vertical and gave a little wiggle – that did it! his tail flicked and he swam into the pool. It was a very gratifying experience as I watched the two fish swim and then settle into the stones at the bottom. I picked up the bag and as I got back up the embankment the Chinese lady was just arriving. I smiled and did my fish tail signal and thumbs up and she leapt at me and with tears in her eyes she gave me a huge hug – “You’re welcome” I said as I tried to shove the smelly plastic bag into her hand and not show I was getting a wee bit emotional too. “I think you must be sent from God” she said pointing to the sky.
My other two good samaritan moments I won’t go into but one involved a jogger and a large dog and the other a lady in a gas station and an abandoned car. They all three had something in common – I was in a big hurry and did not have time to stop. None of the people asked for assistance but I did a rethink anyway and asked “Do you need some help?” In all three instances they absolutely needed help and after giving it in each case it turned out to be the highlight of my day….