Bilingual Breakdown

Late one morning after a large snowstorm in the Midwest US, I was traveling down a not-completely- plowed divided highway to pick up my stepson from work and noticed a white SUV with emergency flashers going in the opposite lane.

I was early and drove around the parking lot for 10 minutes, picked him up and we drove across the road to the grocery store to pick up a few things. When we left and turned back on to the divided highway, we saw the same SUV, emergency flashers still going, pulled half off the road, half into the unplowed snow but, this time, there was lady standing in the snow behind the vehicle.

As we drove past her hand came up in shy wave and she tried to make eye contact. Twenty minutes had passed since I saw her, and I realized she needed help. I stopped into a partially plowed driveway ahead of her, got out and began to walk back to the car. She saw me and walked toward me. As we got within speaking distance, I asked, “Do you need help?” She replied in what sounded like Mandarin Chinese. I made the international sign for cell phone (tapped my index finger of my left hand into the palm of my right hand several times and held my right hand to my ear).

She replied in Mandarin, smiled and nodded. I called 911 and asked for help for her. She smiled, I squeezed her shoulder as we both turned and walked away pleased.

Gil Knight, Wauconda, Illinois, United States

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