Last Saturday after a big storm pounded Lake Tahoe with feet of snow, South Shore resident Stevan Alt was driving across Pioneer Trail when he saw a Mini Cooper — sans chains — sideways on the road with a man attempting to push it.
His first reaction was one we are all likely familiar with: "Ugh, idiots," he thought. But then he made eye contact with the driver and the man pushing the car as he drove by.
They looked embarrassed and beaten down. After driving past the scene, Alt changed his mind. He turned around, parked and walked up to help them.
As Alt helped push the vehicle so it wasn't sticking out in the road and urged the men to go buy chains, he experienced first hand what it can be like to be an outsider in a town that prides itself on coolly navigating mountain life.
"I had people throwing up middle fingers. Some of them had their windows down and were laughing. People were honking," said Alt. "This guy in an old Dodge blue truck with a plow on it got super close to the car. He reached across his seat to aggressively point at us, and I could just see him screaming at me with his face beet red."
Alt could see how it was affecting the men he was helping. He even began to feel it himself.
"It totally makes you feel horrible," he said. "If you're coming up here to go on vacation, everyone is coming here in a good positive mood, and then that happens. It's hard to really see peoples' true sides."
Unfortunately, it didn't surprise Alt. He's seen the local Facebook pages where people start threads with the sole purpose of asking others to share their favorite photos of people stuck on the roads in South Lake Tahoe, or with their chains on the wrong tires, or even just looking like a "Jerry" on the mountain.
I came across Alt's post on one of those Facebook pages as I scrolled through the 90 percent of posts that make me want to give up on social media — and possibly society — while in search of the 10 percent of posts that give me leads on stories.
He dedicated the post to all those who "yelled, pointed and laughed."
"Give them advice, get them out of the way if you can," he wrote. "You might even feel good doing it. Seeing a sincere look in someone's eyes when they say 'God bless you' does wonders."
His post reminded me of something important.
Every day we are faced with choices. We can choose to be angry with the driver who made a mistake or we can choose to help.
We can choose to be inclusive or we can choose to create barriers. We can choose to think about how our actions will affect others. We can choose to care.
Call me an idealist, but that's the kind of person I want to be — and that's the kind of community we should be.
So here's my message to all of those that yelled, pointed and laughed: Do better.
News Editor Claire Cudahy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.