Whiplash: Good Samaritan

Someone should write a handbook for Good Samaritans. The ancient Plymouth was beached, its battery completely dead, but she couldn't seem to come to terms with it. As I entered the picture she was trying (unsuccessfully) to generate juice with jumper cables supplied by a long-suffering passerby. I invited her into my office to use the phone, and she called several friends, none of whom was home. She didn't want to summon a tow truck. She wouldn't let me drive her anywhere. She didn't need money. Three different times we went out and attached MY (brand-new) jumper cables to her fossilized battery, as she insisted, with increasing perversity, that just the right jiggle or twitch would fire the comatose beast into action. I suggested the nearby service station. I offered to help push. I let her sit in my office, her leg thumping against my desk, waiting for one of her flaky friends to call back. She tied up my phone. Long minutes passed. I was running late. She took a nail file and chiseled angrily at the corroded battery terminals, saying she was "sure" it would turn over now; and once again we listened to the sound of ONE car idling. Just where WAS the warm fuzzy you're supposed to get when you help a person in distress? I felt only impatience. One of her friends finally showed up -- and then left. I have no idea why; it seemed crude to ask. So there we were, the castaway and her feckless aide. When, I wondered, does rescuer become victim? At what point is it "acceptable" for the Good Samaritan to become brusque, even rude? If I had shrieked at her "I'm done helping you now, go away!" might she have pulled a gun on me and snuffed me for abdicating my charitable duty? What if I had simply taken over, forcing upon her my OWN battery and blaring "Take mine, I'll get another!!!"? I don't know what etiquette dictated, but when I reclaimed my phone and said "No, sorry, no more calls;" when I finally packed up my untouched paperwork; when I finally ushered her out the door and locked it behind both of us, I slumped in my seat as I drove away, an angry, confused, unthanked but extremely guilt-ridden citizen. So what do you think, Whipkids; should would-be Good Sams stipulate their limits at the outset or simply ride the rescuer rapids?Why do real estate agents use their pictures in their ads? And why do they put Member of the Zillion Dollar Club or the Billion Dollar Club; I'd rather buy from an agent who needs the money. Do they think we're stupid or what? --Not in the Market Anyway They use their pictures because research shows people are more likely to do business with someone who has nothing to hide, someone who "looks friendly." As for the "Stratospheric Sales" clubs, let's suppose that you ARE stupid (I can do this, because you keep submitting anonymous questions and once accused me, falsely, of misquoting you.) A stupid person indeed might rather give his business to someone who "needs the money," not recognizing that the agents who are hurting may be the incompetents. A stupid person might actually assume that the superstar agents did well simply because they were greedy, not considering the more likely reality that they prospered because they were knowledgeable, helpful, thorough, and congenial. A stupid person might overlook the fact that the successful agents were touted by their own customers and earned heaps of referral business. Realtors tell you about their sales awards because those are the totems of their prowess. That's not to say that rookies can't work hard -- we were all rookies once -- and if you're BUYING a house you can buy it from anyone and still end up with the house you want. But the sales achievements are not irrelevant. Sometimes Realtors, like many people, find it most practical to presume that everyone is what you call "stupid." It's far less hazardous than presuming the opposite.In the pharmacy section of a grocery, I see this product called Bag Balm, an ointment for cow udders. OK, people raise cows near that grocery. But then I saw it in a pharmacy in a downtown non-farm area. Is this nostrum put to some non-bovine use of which I am ignorant? --Dairy Dummy Cows are way way WAY out to pasture in this consumer frenzy: "Non-bovine use" accounts for about 90 percent of Bag Balm revenues. Reading the label might put you off your feed ("Dilators may be needed if teat canal is injured" doesn't inspire the same shopper ardor as "Guaranteed Relief" or "Lasts All Day"). But take a look at the ingredients: 8 hydroxyquinoline sulfate in a petrolatum/lanolin base. It's Vaseline with a parenthetical. Ointment. Skiers use it on wind-grated skin. Hikers swab it onto their heels. Gardeners goosh it into thorn thank-yous. You don't need chapped teats to benefit from the antiseptic additive; a company rep says "People use it for any kind of skin problem." But the biggest bennies go to Bag Balm's owner and distributors. Business is BOOOOOOOMING. Norman K. Smith is the guy who for 30 years has been getting BB into pharmacies and feed stores throughout the western U.S., and he peddles about 400,000 of the 10-ounce cans every 12 months. Volume has increased "probably 10 times in the last 20 years," Smith says, and "dairy herds haven't increased that much" (indeed not, but human herds have). BB's owner doesn't even promote it; he doesn't have to. When the Denver Post quoted a podiatrist as saying the product "softens dry skin 75 percent overnight" (I have no idea what that means), Smith got orders for a "truckload." When a 94 year-old woman in Washington state said her youthful skin might be due to daily use of the slime, demand spiked. But Bag Balm's parent company, Dairy Association Co., Inc., will not endorse the product for Homo Sapiens, even though a spokeswoman in Vermont acknowledged the widespread human use. She says 100 years of word of mouth did it. "The farmer's wife probably found that it was softening" (oh fine, what else did farmers' wives have to do but sit at their vanities and coat their faces with livestock condiments?). So far the FDA has been kept at bay. In fact, the formulation has been changed as Bag Balm dances on the periphery of various regulations. For years it had mercury in it. A later mix contained pine oil. Smith says the current recipe is only about five years old. And -- bummer -- no Lidocaine. BB fends off bacteria but does nothing for the ouch. I resented this when I tried some after a day of creekbed clearing left my calves striped with bloody scratches, and I resent it even more when I think of poor, doe-eyed Flossies with abraded udders. But I desperately want to hear from people who use Bag Balm, people who put it on their nipples, on their nuts, on those furrows beneath their bleary eyes, on their dogs' raw bellies and their lovers' hairless pates. I want to hear how it cures diaper rash, condom burn and athlete's foot. Mostly, though, I want stock in the stuff.Send questions to Whiplash by fax (503-297-6620), e-mail (74710.3505@compuserve.com), phone (243-2122, ext. 320) or slug mail (822 S.W. 10th, Portland, OR 97205-2519).

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