Home > University life > Life in Pittsburgh and the random car ride…

Life in Pittsburgh and the random car ride…


Although I’ve done a fair amount of travelling in the States, Pittsburgh was a town I’d never visited before. I’d been to Philadelphia and other part of the Eastern seaboard, but Pittsburgh had never really registered on my list of places to visit in America. I’m not sure why this is, but I think that it’s got a lot to do with the fact that it’s not a ‘tourist town’ in the way that NYC or Boston or Philadelphia are. Now, that’s not to say that there’s nothing to do in Pittsburgh, far from it, but rather, it doesn’t market itself as a city for tourists to visit. As such, it seems more representative of ‘real’ America, rather than the kind of package-deal America you might get at Disneyland or something. And for me, the former is far more interesting and attractive a proposition than the latter.

Anyway, suffice to say that I had absolutely no preconceptions about what life would be like over here, and what I’ve seen thus far has been pleasantly surprising. Perhaps one of the most surprising things to happen to me since, well, almost ever (?), was one of the first social interactions we had in Pittsburgh. We arrived in Pittsburgh on the 12th September and on the 13th, we decided to scout around some of the local neighbourhoods to get an idea of where things were, important orientating points and so on. So we knew where we were starting from and where we had gone, we headed to Giant Eagle to buy a street map. Unfortunately, Giant Eagle didn’t have any, but during the conversation with one of the members of staff, one of the women in front of us in the queue mentioned that we should try either the nearby gas station or Barnes and Noble. We thanked her and she left the store. As we came out of Giant Eagle, we saw her standing near the entrance on her phone, and as we walked past her, she stopped us and said that she was speakeing to her mechanic who was just around the corner to see if he had a map we could borrow. Again, we thanked her and said that we were going to get the bus to the Barnes and Noble at the Waterfront to buy one instead. What happened next literally made my jaw drop…

Her: ‘Barnes and Noble? The one down at the Waterfront? No worries. Jump in the car and I’ll take you guys there.’
Me: ‘What? No no no, don’t worry about it, we’ll just take the bus!’
Her: ‘It’s fine, I’m headed that way, so it’s not a big deal.’

So despite having never met us before, she was willing to give two perfect strangers a helping hand and make their day a little bit easier. We jumped in the car and she drove us to Barnes and Noble. Just to be extra awesome, as we were driving there, she phoned the store to see if they had any Pittsburgh street maps for sale (they did, thankfully!). After some nice chat about the city and what we were doing in Pittsburgh, we arrived at the shopping centre and she dropped us off right at the door. After us tripping over ourselves trying to thank her, she wished us a pleasant stay and drove off. Even four weeks later, I’m still kind of stunned that even in a big city, people can still be caring and helpful and kind to complete strangers and be willing to go out of their way, if only a little bit, to help someone out. This might be a minor story, but I really can’t imagine that happening in London or Birmingham or NYC or Chicago. Maybe out in the sticks where things are a little bit harder to get to, but in a city, you kind of feel as though you’re left to your own devices for the most part.

So to the woman who drove us to Barnes and Noble, thank you for the lift! You made our day.

– The Social Linguist

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  1. missmcinerney
    October 16, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    You’d be surprised. I’ve spent a lot of time escorting people around several parts of London, and even once taking people in my car to a tube station because they were so lost. (They were looking for Wembley in Stratford… it’s about an hour away ….BY TUBE).

    • October 16, 2012 at 8:13 pm

      That’s because you’re really nice! I’m not saying it *doesn’t* happen (Rebecca and I ended up giving a guy in Birmingham a lift cause he’d broken down and needed to meet someone), but it’s pretty unusual, at least in my experience.

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