Mutual Aid


One of the first things I noticed about the Westside – many, many years ago- was that they rarely helped each other out when one of their own had car troubles. Imagine my surprise to see some mutual aid being doled out a few days ago on my way to work.

As a driver of used cars, I’m well accustomed to shit going wrong: inevitable flats of the $15 retread tires, alternator going crazy and blowing out the electrical system, starter sticking and refusing to turn over, manual transmission exploding on the 710 (I was driving but it wasn’t my car, phew!), carburetor points going bad at the worst time on a Ford Pinto, brakes completely failing on the wrong side of a hill on the way to a job interview for a damn mortuary, and sometimes just running out of gas, which happens often when the gas gauge doesn’t work. Yeah, they’re things that should be fixed before they break. But financial precariousness, a symptom often associated with those buying crappy old cars, nudges those repairs until that mythical later when you’ll have just a few extra dollars to take care of things. It doesn’t matter anyways since those repairs will choose their own day and time on which to demand attention, regardless of where you need to be.  That’s just how it is.


On the Eastside, where most people can’t afford to join AAA, when your car breaks down on the street, people will help you push it over to the side of the road, to a safe place from where you can start calling around to friends and family to see who’s available to help out. Pedestrians and drivers, it’s common for all of them to pitch in with the pushing. Maybe they just want to get you the fuck out of the way, but still, it’s help.

This weekday morning I noticed that no cars were moving even though the light was green. Suddenly, this guy from Sonora in the blue jacket jumps out of his truck and heads over to push an apparently stalled mini-van. The man in the black sweater responded to the visual cue and jumped out of his BMW to help out as well, and soon the homeless vet that hangs out at this off ramp also joined in.  The Korean woman seemed surprised by what was happening, but she got her van parked safely across the street. Humans are by nature cooperative and helpful. Unless they live too long being part of a messed up anti-social culture that seems to be so common these days in the US.


Everyone is back in their respective autos and waiting for the green light. The homeless vet is still talking to the Korean woman, I suspect he’s asking for some money for the help, just like the “help” I’ve experienced downtown.

It doesn’t take much time or effort to help out, but I’ve seen a few instances where nobody can be bothered. I once helped some obviously moneyed guy in a fancy corvette push his expensive unreliable vehicle over to a side street, somewhere in Beverly Hills or Century City, I can’t remember. Not like I could tell the difference either. I was appalled at all the people that kept honking at him and speeding around him as if to make a statement, like I-reject-your-vehicle-failure. It was crazy, kinda like he was no longer one of them. And even though I didn’t want to help the fucker (cuz you know, I’m all about fomenting the class war) I somehow felt bad for him and offered a hand. My apologies.

This tiny and unexpected example of helping others, though insignificant, still registers as an act of mutual aid, of helping others just because they seem to need it. An antidote for the fucked-up-ness all around.

It was also a nice way to start the day. Uhh, I was going to jump out to help out too but I knew they had it covered. Yes, I knew.


Later in the evening, heading back home thru the traffic, I found myself looking at another Naranjeros sticker. Didn’t I just see one earlier today? Oh shit, that’s the truck with the mutual aid guy from this morning! The picture is bad, but trust me, this is a shot of a vehicle driven by that same Sonorense with a big heart.

Chanfles, indeed.

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16 Responses to Mutual Aid

  1. browne says:

    i like the action shot of bmw guy and truck guy. you need to make some action figures of all of the characters in this story.

    great little morality tale.

  2. don quixote says:

    Many years ago my brother in law, his wife, my wife, and I were in my old ranfla when it broke down way out at the end of Palos Verdes peninsula. It was 8 at night, we were fucked, bunch of Mexicans broke down in an old car in Palos Verdes, no cell phones in those days.

    After about an hour a white guy pulls up and said he would push start us with his car, after a mile the car still wouldn’t start and I felt bad because the guys front bumper was getting scratched up.
    I thanked him for his help, but he insisted he would push us to a gas station . I told him it was about ten miles away and his car would probably get fucked up in the process, I didn’t care about my old carucha.
    This guy in a thick accent told me that many years back he had been stranded in the outback of Australia for three days when his vehicle had broken down. He told me that he thought he was going to die of thirst and he had made a promise to God that if he was rescued he would never pass another person by who was in need of assistance.
    He pushed us to a gas station about ten miles away and wouldn’t accept any money, he said he was glad to help out and left with a smile on his face.
    If we all thought and acted like that Australian it would be a much better world.

  3. don quixote says:

    Or the Sonorense in your story Chavo

  4. Martha Benedict says:

    I used to live in Studio City. I’d always get home totally aggravated. People on cell phones blocked the aisles in stores. people in the parking lots would rush into spaces I’d clearly been waiting for, oncoming traffic made turning left into Russian roulette, everybody sped through the yellow lights, walking on sidewalks was dangerous. Then I moved to Northeast LA. People smile, people move aside to accommodate you, people say courteous things. Many complex intersections have no signals, only stop signs to maintain order and everyone cooperates, keeping an eye out for everyone else.

    I hope the blue pickup guy’s influence spreads west. He must come from this part of town. People here live in the presence of hardship. It’s just a shot away. There’s no personal bubble of self-congratulatory entitlement that causes the indifference you see elsewhere.

  5. Elyery says:

    There’s a song out there called “A Mi Sonora” in it, a bunch of Sonora’s cities are named and briefly described along with the sort of people that comes from those cities… Narajero’s is the baseball team from Navojoa so I’m guessing the guy in the blue truck is from Navojoa, in the song Navojoa is desbribed with the following verse, “Ay Navojoa que fina es tu gente, mayo prudente que ayudas a los demas, cuando tu extiendes la mano a un hermano esque a la buena lo quieres aydar.”

    Says a whole lot about Sonorenses.

    P.S.- Arriba Cd. Obregon, Sonora

  6. Gunther says:

    I went to the westside yesterday, I used to live there. On the westside eveyone’s pissed off. Everyone’s pissed off because everyone there knows at least one person who’s doing better than they are. And it pisses them off. And when you’re pissed off all the time, it’s hard to be courteous or help someone in need. Also, it’s a cultural thing, excuse me, but I think that more than a class thing. I notice that on the eastside, where I’ve lived now for more than 20 years, thank you, courtesy is not mistaken for the empty smile that it is on the westside. After my experience on the westside this weekend, I don’t think I’ll go back there for quite a while. It’s depressing for personal reasons, and people don’t respect my retro Corolla.

  7. mooncrazy says:

    This reminded me of a story. A dozen years ago my husband, in his work truck, stopped to help a woman at the side of the freeway. She’d broken down about three miles from the airport. He took her to the airport just in time to catch her flight.
    I don’t remember where she was going but she struck up a conversation with her seat partner and by the end of the flight they’d exchanged phone numbers. He called her when they got back into town, they dated for a while, and then he proposed.
    My husband was invited to the wedding since he was the person that made it possible for these two to meet. That pretty much describes my husband, Mr Mutual-aid.

  8. chimatli says:

    I’ve been helped quite a bit by strangers when my car’s broken down on the Eastside. People around here are quick to get involved, some may say too involved cause folks are also kind of chismosos too! 🙂
    I can’t count the times I’ve seen people push other people’s cars or play tow truck or push truck (like DQs story) with their own cars.
    That’s why I hated that movie Crash. It got Los Angeles all wrong.

  9. change is slowly coming to the Westside

  10. Bob Squires says:

    My car broke down at he intersection of Figueroa and York. I was able to navigate it to the curb on York. Not one, but three different guys came and offered to help me. I was blown away. I had only seen that sort of people support in very rural areas where getting no assistance can result in being stranded for hours, or days. (Think Minneapolis to Duluth, or the main Newfoundland provincial highway.)

    I help people other ways, not with their cars, because I am a big and clumsy man with a mechanical aptitude of -347. Getting help wioth my car that day told me not that the people wnt to get my car out of their their way, but that people support each other and can count on each other in Highland Park. That’s always a beautiful thing. I was left wanting to do even more to benefit others.

  11. gustavo says:

    dude, you could’ve helped out instead of snapping pics.. haha

  12. Aleks says:

    I love reading stories like this. Makes me want to go out and help someone. Great post, Chavo!

  13. EL CHAVO! says:

    Thanks everyone for your comments! At first I thought it might be even too stupid of a concept for ME to post on, but I’m glad that I’m not alone in thinking of these things.

  14. i’ll try to make my comments cleaner next time 😛

  15. Artnoose says:

    Here’s a little story that takes place in the East End, which is what they call our part of Pittsburgh. The person I live with has an 81 rabbit diesel pickup truck that has the uncanny tendency for breaking down anywhere and everywhere. For a while, it could only start by push-starting, which was actually a lot of fun while it lasted because we’d always have to get a group of people together in order to go anywhere. (It also amused the teens on the block to no end.)

    Anyway, one night I get a call from him. “Um, I’m three blocks away, broken down in an intersection. Can you help me get this thing back home?” I ran down there and got in the front seat to steer while he started pushing it into a U-turn. Some kid biking by stopped and volunteered to help. “Um, it’s a few blocks away,” said my companero. And the kid left his bike laying on the sidewalk and helped push it back. We asked if he didn’t want to maybe bring his bike along but he assured us no one would mess with it. Halfway there though, he yelled to a friend as we passed to go run over and watch his bike. It was pretty amazing that he helped push it all the way home.

    Another Eastside story.

  16. P-3000 says:

    I love stories like this too.
    We need more of these. It reminds us that humans are capable of great acts of kindness, patience, compassion, sympathy, empathy, love and care.
    We are usually served a constant stream of stories that emphasize the bad humans and their systems are capable of of.

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