John B Keane: chivalry is critical but not dead

THE other day I chanced to be standing in a doorway for the excellent reason that it was raining heavily and I had no desire to get wet.

THE other day I chanced to be standing in a doorway for the excellent reason that it was raining heavily and I had no desire to get wet.

Before I go on may I say that the choicest of all fools is he who refuses to come in from the rain. But be that as it may, as the man said when his house went on fire.

As I said, I was standing in this doorway watching the rain as it fell sloppily on the street and roadway.

At the time there was fairly heavy traffic on the road and the cars sped merrily by, proof against rain and storm.

At the other side of the street a woman appeared in the door of a shop. She looked up and down the roadway and I gathered from this that it was her intention to cross.

She stood on the kerb waiting for the flow of traffic to abate, but abate it did not so she was forced to stand there and grow progressively wetter.

She made a few attempts to cross alright but on every occasion a car came along and beat her to it.

What amazed me, indeed what appalled me, was the lack of chivalry shown by the drivers of these cars. They were drawn from all walks of life and maybe you who read this were one of them.

If so, you are a thoughtless wretch, a churl and a scoundrel, an unconcerned villain who will not see for want of enlightenment the unhappy situation of a damsel in distress, who will not acknowledge the plight of a lady without shelter.

Oh capricious world, advancing into realms of pseudo-enlightenment, oh civilisation that goes backward, oh mankind that sadly returns to its pristine apehood.

If you think, dear reader, that the foregoing epithets are too severe you must remember that among the motorists who passed the lady by were lawyers, doctors, teachers, tailors, engineers and others who are well up in the world.

In short, they were drawn from the upper echelons of what is euphemistically labelled as the middle class. In my opinion, those who did not stop to let this woman cross the road belonged to the very lowest class.

It would have been a simple matter. Nobody would have been inconvenienced. The innocent reader will say that maybe they did not see the woman.

Oh charitable soul that your innocence might never grow less. They saw her alright but seeing that there could be no material gain they sped by.

Things had now reached such a stage that speedy action was necessary. It was time to show that the age of chivalry was not really dead.

I stepped on to the roadway, raised my hand imperiously and brought the next car to a stop. The brake sounded off like a puppy whose toe has been stood upon.

The driver lowered the window of his car and waited expectantly. When I ignored him and waved the lady across his exact words were: “Hey! What’s the big idea?”

“Can’t you see,” I told him in an educational sort of tone, “The lady wanted to cross the road.”

What he said next I cannot repeat. He was on the point of opening the door of the car to come out and have a go at me when he fell victim to the very system of which he is part and which he helped create. Behind him men just like himself started to flay their hooters.

The sound was intimidating and irritating so he was forced to cry off and return to the business of moving along. May I say here, lest I forget to mention it later, that the smile I received from the lady was well worth the trouble I had taken.

Irately and with several menacing looks, the driver I stopped drove away but not before mentioning retributions at a later date.

I feel sure, however, that this was said on the spur of the moment because it is a known fact that a grown male is far more dangerous inside a car than he is outside it.

I returned to the doorway where I had been standing. The rain still fell and the sad thought struck me that ladies like the one I had succoured were being treated in the same way by passing cars all over the country.

I hope this little incident will help in some small way to alleviate the situation and that it will give men food for thought so that the next time they see a lady waiting to cross a roadway in the rain they will stop immediately and politely wave her across, proving on the one hand that there is some good in everybody if only we look for it and on the other that there is hope for the world yet.