Thursday, August 16, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness

LUCY BURDETTE:  I "met" Kathleen George when I read her wonderful novel, THE ODDS, which was nominated for an Edgar for best novel. Her sixth novel, SIMPLE, is out now. And she's visiting JRW today to talk about how characters sometimes real life. Welcome Kathy!

I love a hunk.  

I have a new car, a Honda CRV, both taller and wider than my old Accord.  The sightlines are different, too.  I’m still getting used to it.  The other day I drove it into my parking garage at Pitt. And I found a space but there were big cars all around not to mention a wall to my left and a fence to my right, making for an awkward turning angle. 

I’ve been aware that over the years cars keep getting bigger and bigger but the parking spaces have not been expanded. 

This parking challenge would be nothing to a person living in France.  Those French drivers steer SUVs into postage-stamp-sized spots.  But I was game, unfortunately.  I swung in and heard a stomach-sickening crunch.  I turned to my left to find the driver side back door was attached to the wall.  All I knew was that my new car and the wall were meeting.    

I thought, if I go forward or backward I will rip the whole side of the car. 

I walked to the Grounds office located in the garage where only one man was working.  T-shirt, tattoos.  I said,  “I’ve driven into a wall.  I think I need a wonderful driver to help me figure out how to minimize damage.”   

He didn’t hesitate.  He followed me out to my car.  I believe he clapped his hands to his head when he saw the problem.   

 I said, “If we had eight or ten strong people, we could maybe lift the car away . . . “   

He shook his head.  There was no one else around.

“Let me get a jack,” he said.  

 I paced.  I was due at a meeting.  But he came back in seconds.  He jacked up the rear end of the car and then he stood and pushed hard several times, heaving and grunting until he’d moved the car a foot away from the wall.  I handed him the keys and without a word, he started it up and adjusted the car in the parking place. 

He could have made me feel dumb but he didn’t.  I offered him money, but he refused.  I saw that my only damage was a zigzagged scratch on the rear door—nothing compared with what would have happened without my hunk.  

I went back the other day to look for the guy.  I asked his name.  I figured he shouldn’t be nameless.  I said to him, “I’ve told everybody how great you were and that you could have made me feel stupid but you didn’t.”

He said, “It could have happened to anybody.”

Sweet, too?

I started to be in love.

Lowly?  Not in my book.  

 Well, maybe in a future book—as a character the reader will love.

Kathleen George is a theatre professor at Pitt and a novelist.  Her sixth novel SIMPLE, a police thriller about a gubernatorial candidate and his mistress, is forthcoming in August.

And she's here to talk with us today!


  1. Love the story Kathleen--what a sweet man! will you tell us about the new thriller?

  2. What reader wouldn’t love him? Definitely worthy of immortalization in a future book . . . .

  3. Oh, you handled that man well (I know a woman or two who would have complained the wall was in a bad place). There are few things a decent guy would rather do than play Knight in Shining Armor, especially to an attractive woman. Having that help involve cars and/or tools makes it extra fun. A jackpot for the chivalrous.

    Good luck with the new book. I sure like your writing.

  4. What an excellent story. This man probably shrugged off what, to you, was a big problem because he problem solves every day. No big.

    But of course you were lovely to him, and that helps, too.

  5. Lucy,
    Thanks for the great intro and your interest. My new one is . . . almost out. A couple of starred reviews so I'm all twitchy and excited. This one takes me to a more upscale Pittsburgh. I got the idea when teaching in the Chatham summer writing program and I saw (virtually on that campus) the most gorgeous mansions surrounded by woods. Who lives there? I asked. And soon I had made up an attractive candidate for governor who was well thought of and wore his wealth modestly. Then I made up (or saw in that way that we see characters emerging) the young woman with whom he was having an affair. Uptight, sexy, home-schooled, a mess of contradictions. And she got killed. Or rather I killed her. Well, someone did. And that's the premise!! Thanks for asking.

  6. Oh, a knight in shining armor, just as Jack says! Which illustrates so many things--left versus right brain. Spatial skills versus writing skills. Need-to-hurry versus patience.

    And yes, I bet you made his day. We all feel terrific when we help someone, right? I saw a sign last week at a bank--someone had scrawled it on apiece of construction paper, and taped it to the wall. It said: "Do something unexpectedly nice for a stranger."

    Hmmm. I took a picture of it..I'm go post it on my FB author page.

    And yes, dear Kathleen! Tell us about your new book!

  7. I love me those knights in tarnished armor. With tatts! Can't wait for SIMPLE, Kathleen.

  8. As I get older and live more in my head (and in my study), I have more and more admiration for people who are good at the real world and who can DO things--this includes house cleaners, computer technicians, mechanics of all sorts, carpenters, clothing makers. They know so much. And Jack, yay, thanks for the chivalrous men, of whom I am sure your are one!

  9. Jack it's a darn good thing you keep coming back here--we need a man's point of view! Steve U helps us with that sometimes too--thanks guys!

    The story line sounds so intriguing...why would a governor have gotten involved with a woman like that? we want to read it now!

  10. Hi, Kathleen - so happy to see you here! And what a great story. You could write a mystery series with That good samaritan as the protagonist! Call it the "no good deed goes unpunished" series with first book: Unintended Consequences.

    Reminded me of the guy from AAA who changed a flat on my Honda Civic and leaned so hard into the front fender that he left a huge dent in it. He was sure I was going to report it - but hey, I figured the dent makes the car less likely to get stolen and more easy to track if it does. Eight years later, dent's still there.

  11. I love unexpected heroes. Especially because a man like that could have made you feel incompetent.

    I no longer drive, but years ago I couldn't get my car out of a lot. I was sitting on the hood contemplating calling the police (I didn't know who to call), when a doctor who worked in the building asked me if he could help. He managed with a great deal of trouble (he wasn't an amazing driver either) to pull my car out. I still think of him when I see stuck cars.

  12. Wow! That's just how Edgar-the-auto-body-guy ended up in my book A killing in Antiques. And he's still my hero.
    Mary Moody

  13. oh, I love this story. Both sides of it. He was lovely, as were you.

    I worry about how cynical I feel as though I'm becoming these days. Hearing about the small kindnesses people show one another has become important to me.

    I am very much looking forward to reading SIMPLE!

  14. This story and the comments make me smile, and hope I will see a way to be unexpectedly kind today -- thanks for the prompt!

  15. Kathleen, I love your story--and the premise for Simple.

    And Hallie, maybe you should write that series:-) LOVE it!! LOVE the title, "Unintended Consequences."

  16. Kathleen, I love your story--and the premise for Simple.

    And Hallie, maybe you should write that series:-) LOVE it!! LOVE the title, "Unintended Consequences."

  17. Hi, Kathy! Welcome to Jungle Reds.

    And ladies (and Jack), I've read SIMPLE, and it's fabulous. I really think it's one of the best examinations of politics, class, and power written lately--not to mention it's a great police procedural! Beautifully realized characters. Everyone, pre-order.

    I love this story of the parking space debacle and your rescuer. How nice that he would not only help but resist the impulse to make you feel stupid or lesser in some way.

    And Hallie, love that series idea! "Unintended Consequences," indeed. If you don't write it, one of us might.

  18. Wow, I am loving all these comments. I think it is fair game for Hallie to write this protagonist since she had the brilliant idea. It is a wonderful idea. Let me think . . . hmmm. Several of you are making me want to go out and do something nice today. To all, Linda Rodriguez is the author of a fine novel herself and the force behind the blog, The Stiletto Gang, which I am on today as well because I obviously had no calendar handy a couple of months ago. Wheee.

  19. What an awesome story. I love those "out of the blue" moments when you think things are just going to be a mess and a total stranger helps you out. Bonus points if that stranger is a hunky guy who doesn't make you feel stupid.

    This reminds me. I should call Mystery Lovers to get my autographed copy of SIMPLE.


  20. I loved your story Kathleen. I call those people travel angels - and they are not just men. I ran into one - a woman in the next car who could have gotten mad as I squeezed into her lane at the last minute, but instead realized i was lost. She took it upon herself to guide e through the tunnel into Brooklyn and the right turnoff.

    I think we are at our most vulnerable on the the road, and these travel angels make the the whole world seem a better place.

  21. And there's YOUR title, Jan.

  22. Kathleen, SIMPLE sounds wonderful. Headed next to pre-order a copy.

    Love Hallie's idea of a "no good deed goes unpunished" series with first book: Unintended Consequences." Paired with Jan's TRAVEL ANGELS... perfect.

    I've had a few travel angels. The last group - yes, I had a whole crew - were at my work site in Boston. I had parked on a parking-elevator. The attendant lowered it for me, I got in and started to back out when the car slid off the edge and wedged itself between the lift platform and the I-beam.

    My new Volvo and I were stuck on a slippery platform that wasn't quite to ground level. It must have made an awful noise in the underground lot, because within minutes I had two the parking attendant, an EMT, 3 police officers, two guards, a plastic surgeon, an orthodontist, a pediatrician, and a plumber, accompanied by an assistant dean who appeared to be taking notes.

    The parking attendant got the jack. It didn't reach high enough. One of the police officers got a block of wood, and the surgeon figured out how to make the jack stay between the block and the car, so it could be elevated back onto the lift platform. I'm pretty sure she was kidding when everyone looked at her, and she said, "Oh, we do this all the time."

  23. I still have the Volvo. It still has a big dent, a missing strip of something, paint transfers and all the old parking stickers for the underground elevated parking.

  24. Falling off an elevator (car that is) is more scary by far. Amazing that you had such great help. Keep the dings as memory. I tried to log on at the baseball game but couldn't get a connection. I'm reminded of a time I went parking with my boyfriend in high school and his car went partway over a bluff. We got out (carefully) and he got help--a guy who asked no questions tractored us out. It stopped us doing that parking thing oh for maybe a week.

  25. Oh, Kathleen. Parking with a boy in a car that went partway over a bluff? No. That will always trump (I hope).

    Long live baseball.
    Go Sox

  26. There are some wonderful people in this world and you had the priveleg of meeting one of them. I love that you went back and asked his name, but I should have expected that of you. You are always so very considerate and kind to everyone. Great story , well written. Says so much about the "hunk" and you.
    Can't wait for "Simple" to b released.

  27. Fran, You and me both! Waiting is so hard. Thanks.