Srangers get him to the church on time

This Just In...

May 17, 1999|By Dan Rodricks

Howard Passe has grown accustomed to the tension, the difficulties, the surprises that come with being a professional wedding photographer. He's experienced camera failure. He's seen brides faint and a groom get cold feet at the 11th hour. Flat tire on the way to the church? That's on the books now, too.

Uniformed in his tuxedo and behind the wheel of his minivan the afternoon of Saturday, May 8, Passe felt a bump-and-rumble, followed by a certain sinking feeling in his stomach. On assignment from Rettberg Photography to record the wedding of Kevin Bultman and Nancy Wallace at the Loyola College chapel, Passe found himself pulling off Perring Parkway with a flat tire.

Bump and rumble. The wedding was less than an hour off.

He'd taken photographs at the bride's house in Churchville, Harford County. He'd driven down Interstate 95 to the Beltway, to Perring, and turned off a side street.

That's where he was, a few miles from Loyola, when ... he heard a voice.

"Can I help you?"

A man in a car had pulled up, attracted by the sight of a frustrated Passe in his tuxedo, examining the tire on his minivan.

Passe explained his situation to the stranger, who was with a woman who appeared to be his wife, a younger woman and a child.

"Well," the man said, after listening to Passe's story, "why don't you take all your cameras and put 'em in my car and my wife will drive you to the church, and I'll stay here and fix your flat."

Why not?

Passe, no time to lose, gathered the equipment he needed for the wedding, handed the man his keys, then drove off with the stranger's wife, daughter and grandson. He got to Loyola in time to photograph the mothers of the groom and bride coming down the aisle, the last seating before the bride's entrance.

Passe did his work and, midway through Mass, as guests of the bride and groom received communion, he looked out a window and spotted the stranger walking across the Loyola campus toward the chapel. He'd come to return the keys to Passe's minivan.

"I went outside to greet him, and he handed me back the keys," Passe says. "His name is Joe Talbot. He lives in Baltimore. His wife's name is Sharon. She sat in the parking lot at Loyola and waited for him to come with the van. I wanted to give him something for fixing my flat, but he wouldn't take it. He wouldn't even shake my hands because his hands were all dirty from changing the tire."

The telling of this story in TJI -- it's something we do, from time to time, saluting the Good Sams among us -- is part of the thanks Passe intends to pass along to the Talbots. He wanted the rest of us to know about the couple's act of kindness, that such things still happen in this age of road rage. Crime, violence, bad experiences with our fellow human beings -- it's all made us leery about accepting the kindness of strangers.

Adds Passe: "I've had friends say to me, 'You gave the keys to your van -- it still had a lot of photographic equipment in it -- to a total stranger?' And I say, yes, I did. There was something about them that I trusted instantly. You could just tell these were good people."

Late entry in the 7th race

All I can say about the guy who wandered out on the track during the stretch run of the seventh race at Pimlico on Saturday is: This never woulda' happened if Clem Florio, track handicapper, had been in charge of security.

Appreciating Silverstein

The little boy who lives in our house was sad to hear of the death of Shel Silverstein, the popular children's author who wrote funny, silly and sometimes gross (in a charming way) poems. The boy has three of Silverstein's books and has spent hours with them, giggling to himself, or rushing from his room to read some of the poems out loud. (He likes the gross and goofy stuff the best. What can I say? It's a boy thing.)

For those who've never read Silverstein, here are Nick's suggestions for getting started:

"I have two favorite poems in my favorite Shel book, 'Where The Sidewalk Ends.' I like 'Sick' and one called 'The Crocodile's Toothache.' Another good book is 'Falling Up.' My favorite poem in that one is, 'They Say I Have ...,' which is what a boy thinks when everyone tells him he has his father's nose and his mother's hair, and he thinks the only thing that's just his is his behind. Another good poem is 'Rotten Convention,' which is about a bunch of funny, creepy people. It's sort of strange to think of people with noses shaped like saws and breath like sweaty socks.

"The poem from the book 'A Light In The Attic' that I like the best is titled, 'Crowded Tub.' That's about a boy who had to take baths with too many other kids. 'There's too many kids in this tub./ There's too many elbows to scrub./ I just washed a behind/ That I'm sure wasn't mine./There's too many kids in this tub.'"

Silence of the lawyers

Last Monday's column on jury duty in Baltimore provoked a fair amount of comment from TJI readers. But some misconstrued what I said. To clarify: I did not condemn the entire system as a waste of time. I think jury duty is important. I only suggested that part of the routine -- surveying prospective jurors to determine whether they're related to law enforcement officers or whether they've been victims of crime -- was basic information-gathering that could be done before our arrival at the courthouse. I'm not trying to get jurors off the hook. I'm trying to take two to three hours off the start of jury trials, which might explain why, of all the e-mail and phone calls supporting my position, not one was from a lawyer.

Pub Date: 05/17/99

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