Friday, January 31, 2014

What Just Happened?

My faith in disbelief has been shaken. 

I would not consider myself a "believer". I pooh pooh most religion. My understanding and experience of the world is that there are laws of the universe, as inviolate as the law of gravity that determine how things go. I'd say karma is one of those laws.  

These laws may or may not have been created and governed by a supreme being. I suspect there is some greater unknowable force at work that has resulted in this miraculous reality we all exist within. 

God, in my view, is not watching me, judging me, punishing or rewarding me for my choices, thoughts or actions.  Any of that, I say, comes from my own internal conversation, my awareness of right and wrong and my own ability to live a responsible, conscious life. 

Given this mindset I lie here shaking in my existential boots. 

It's 2 am. What just happened?  How do I reconcile this.  What should I tell myself?  

People experience tragedy and horrific loss every day. I don't.  Rarely has misfortune and loss touched me.   Well, perhaps except for the fact that I live in constant chronic and debilitating pain, the result of seven spinal surgeries and a lifetime of pounding from sports, mostly football and ice hockey. 

I recently experienced the loss of a parent, so that is fresh in my experience.   But that's about it for loss; my health, my dad and grandparents , oh and a few pets along the way. 

Tonight I nearly experienced the ultimate loss.  I came within a very few inches of being maimed or possibly instantly killed.  I can't be more serious. 

I'm not sure how to be about something so terribly awful that nearly happened but didn't. I will start by being grateful. 

Today is my youngest child, my daughter's 21 birthday.  She's been waiting for this day for years. It's a really big deal for her, like it is for most.  To celebrate, she has been planning a trip to San Francisco. She left today with her two friends and her mom, my wife. By the way, my wife is cool and a blast and there is no one my daughter would rather spend the weekend with than her mom.  I'm not quite sure how I feel about this, but it's nice they have this great relationship. 

I'm home alone for the weekend. It's Thursday night. I planned to watch the LA Kings host the Penguins on tv.  I considered going to the game with a friend but tickets were going for $175. I'll stay home and watch from the comfort of my couch. 

Around 6:00 pm or so I decided to head down the street to El Indio Mexican restaurant to order some takeout nachos. I got there, placed my order and paid.   It takes 5 or 10 minutes so I walked to the end of the block, crossed the busy intersection at Washington Street and went to buy a bottle of beer at the corner liquor store. 

I just missed the light so It cost me nearly five more minutes until it was my turn to cross again. These traffic signals include a countdown timer. I think it may give you 30 seconds or so to get across the 4 lane intersection. I'm a very slow walker.  When the timer hits zero the light turns red for the oncoming traffic. The walk sign flashes white and I can go. 

I patiently waited, then with the benefit of the full 30 seconds I crossed and entered the liquor store. I went to the section that has the individual large bottles of Mexican beer and I was undecided but finally chose a Pacifico over a Corona. I paid and left. Holding a large beer bottle in a brown bag I set out to retrace my route back to the restaurant where my hot melted cheese should be waiting atop my order of nachos. 

I approach the corner just as the street light was counting down from about 10 seconds.  Damn!  I'd never make it. Now I would have to wait another 3 or 4 minutes until I could walk. 

I waited. My mind wandered. I next noticed the timer showing 15 seconds until the light would change and I could finally cross. 

10, 9, 8....3 seconds to go. I ready myself to begin my crossing.  Right then I hear something that jolts me out of my wandering thoughts.  I don't recall if it was a car horn, someone yelling or the screech of tires but my focus instantly shifted left and up the hill to the intersection.  There, a large black SUV was barreling at full speed through the intersection. The driver hit the brakes...hard. It barely slowed him down. It was just that now instead of his wheels rolling, they were locked. The vehicle was skidding, swerving, out of control coming directly at me. 

My brain was trying to process what was happening but my body didn't move.  As the car headed right at me all I could think is "this is not happening". 

My feet barely budged. I found myself leaning back as the black vehicle's mirror brushed against my son's red Junior Cyclones warmup jacket that I had on. I watched the car as it flew by me, hit the fairly high curb and bounced off the telephone pole, slammed into the parked car before coming to rest back in the middle of the street. 

How did that miss me?  My body had gone numb , bracing for full impact.  

Broken glass, plastic, metal car parts were still sliding down the street as the offending vehicle came to a sudden stop. 

People came running out of the liquor store, the bar and the restaurant to check out the commotion.  The driver jumped out of the car. Someone rolled the back window down to survey the damage while two pit bulls also poked their heads out of the car. 

I slumped back and sat down, fading into the crowd of onlookers. I was shaken and shaking, wondering how in the world that I was untouched. 

I sat there and watched the ensuing chaos as people ran around asking what happened.  The police were on the scene in minutes.  I waited there assuming the cops would want a statement from witnesses.  They only talked to the driver and another driver who the offending driver claimed cut him off and caused the whole thing.  

I waited.  Then I left. My nachos would be cold. They were. But they were really good. So was the beer. 

My life could have been irreparably altered in that instant.  But I was fine.  No one would ever know how close I came.

By the way.  It's a miracle I was alone.  I don't know why but I decided to leave Roo, my golden retriever at home.  I normally take her everywhere.  Had she been with me she would have certainly been already in the street wanting to go.  It was a wonder I was able to avoid contact, there is no way I would have been able to get her out of the way.

I immediately went into asking myself questions. What just happened? Was this a direct message to me from a god I basically don't believe in?  Was there a lesson?  Was this random? 

I called my wife and told her what happened. I talked to my son.  I finished my dinner, watched the Kings lose, again and I went to bed still trying to understand, appreciate and make sense of what just happened. 

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