As a child, my parents always taught me to never accept a ride from a stranger.
But what do you do when a stranger asks you for a ride?
In January, a friend and I went to cover an event in Lansing for a campus publication. I was taking pictures at a mixed martial arts fight, while my friend wrote about the fight. After the event, we called our editor to see if she would come pick us up, since the buses were not running. We said we would meet her at a parking lot of a church.
Then along came Samson.
He looked like he was about 6’ 6” and weighted about 350 lbs. He dressed as if he was an inner city rapper, his clothes were baggy and he sported a backwards cap.
At first, I didn’t think much about him; he was walking towards us from across the parking lot. I thought that he was just taking a short cut through the parking lot. But when he started wandering straight towards us, a warning light went off in my mind.
“Hey, where you heading?” he said.
I told him we were headed back to Michigan State University.
“Me too man, I’m headed there too,” he exclaimed. We found out later that he lied, he was headed north to downtown Lansing. “Can I get a ride?”
We tried to explain that we did not have the choice of giving him a ride. It wasn’t our car and our editor probably did not have enough room in the car for all of us.
Ok, so maybe we weren’t completely honest either.
But he insisted that he could get a ride from us. What could we do? We tried to tell him flat out that we could not let him ride with us, but he gave us reason after reason why we could give him a ride. I offered to let him borrow my cell phone, but everyone he called didn’t pick up.
When our editor showed up, we quickly climbed in the car, but Samson asked her if he could get a ride. Before she could answer, he climbed in the back of the car.
We drove him to where he wanted, up on Saginaw St. He kept telling us, “the next light” for about five lights. After we stopped at a convenience store to let him out, he thanked us for the ride, and joked about how we probably shouldn’t have given a stranger a ride.
Looking back, I still cannot decide whether it was the right thing to do. We did help someone who was stranded get to the other side of town, and no one was hurt. On the other hand, we knew nothing about him and he was dishonest to us as well.
I wonder what my parents would have told me to do.