I was stopped at a busy stoplight at the intersection of two four-lane roads one recent afternoon, about five vehicles back from the stoplight. More cars were behind me. I noticed a box truck pulled over to the curb of the intersecting street, its cargo bay open. A man was walking away from the truck, watching approaching traffic, as he stooped to collect something from the roadway.
It took a moment to realize that what he was retrieving was several folding chairs that had fallen from the open rear of the cargo truck. I couldn't tell how many chairs were in the roadway, but I could see enough, as I peered around the cars ahead of me, to see that it might take several signal cycles for him to clear the traffic hazards. There were enough chairs to stall traffic for a while, and, already, drivers were ignoring the traffic signal and looking instead for a path between the chairs lying in the road.
Then something surprising happened. First one driver, then another and another, got out of the cars waiting in front of me and, watching the oncoming traffic carefully, walked into the roadway to help the man whose chairs were in the road. With this additional help, the road was quickly cleared, the chairs were secured in the truck, drivers returned to their vehicles, and the stoplight began to matter again.
I don't know how many places something like this might happen. I don't know how many people would put their lives at risk on a busy street to help a stranger who either failed to secure his cargo or was the victim of an equipment failure. But I saw some brave and considerate souls do the right thing. In the process, they helped everyone waiting at that intersection get where they were going.
It happened in Wilson, N.C.