Second thoughts on a good deed

by Dr. S. Russell Vester, MD 24. May 2013 10:15

When I was in the middle of the One Lap of America race two weeks ago, I had to witness something that turned out to be quite upsetting. This small event turned out to be a perfect example of many things that are problematic with much of our society’s approach to health care.


Dr. Phil “The Rocket” Munschauer, my lead foot co-driver, and I were leaving West Virginia on Interstate 76 and took our place in line at a toll booth. I was driving. I was behind a woman in a 7 or 8 year old Ford Taurus. In the car with her were two young boys. They did not appear to be belted in by the amount of movement they displayed. We waited for a few cars to pay their toll and pull through. Eventually the woman in the Taurus made it up to the toll booth. And then we sat there.

We sat for several minutes. The usual activity of an outstretched hand coming out of a car window with money and another hand reaching out of the toll booth to accept it and perhaps give back some change did not happen. What I could see evolving was a very animated conversation. Through her side view mirror I could see the driver’s face. She was a woman in her early thirties. As the conversation progressed I could see her chin begin to tremble. It was beginning to become apparent to us that she did not have the money for her toll.

At that point I began to feel very uncomfortable. I put my hand on the door handle and was about to get out of the car and go up and pay her toll for her when something happened. As I grasped the door handle of my car, the young woman’s hand came out of the window in hers. On the back of her hand was a chain link tattoo. In the fingers of her tattooed hand was a half-finished cigarette she flicked to get the ashes off. As she did this my hand came off my door handle. A couple of minutes later she pulled through the toll booth and did a U-turn to go back down the road she had just traveled. She was not allowed to proceed down the turnpike.

My initial feelings of sympathy quickly vanished as I paid my toll and moved on.

How many of you reading this can see the many layers of problems this event illustrates? I hope all of you. Let me hear from you after you have read this.

Next week I’ll explain my change of heart.


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From the Heart...

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