the maroon Chrysler crossed the median strip, I held my breath,
watching helplessly as it narrowly avoided hitting a cable truck
head-on. Breathing a sigh of relief that the mystery driver had
somehow averted disaster, I then realized that he was now headed
toward me! My brakes grabbed the wheels of my Rodeo and I cranked
the steering wheel hard to the left. In one of those prolonged
moments of slow motion reality, I saw the driver of the Chrysler,
a white-haired old gentleman, gaze out of his window like a lost
child as his car sped by me, crossed three lanes of on-coming
traffic, and jumped up onto the sidewalk. Like I was witness to
some surreal stunt show, I gaped as the old man and his car sped
down the walkway.
minutes ago, it struck me, I had been leaving the office of my
friend and client to return a library book when I felt the urge
to stop and pick up my briefcase. ÒIÕll be right back,Ó I thought
to myself. ÒNo need to take it with me.Ó But because the impression
wouldnÕt leave me, I stopped for a couple of seconds, picked up
the leather case and carried it to the car with me. Had I not
followed that internal urge the Chrysler and I would have been
perfectly timed to meet each other in a spectacular collision.
jumping out of the way as the old man roared down the sidewalk
narrowly missing a large power pole, next he missed a fire hydrant,
then he clipped a large "For Lease" sign, which toppled
end-over-end in slo-mo fashion. As I watched in awestruck horror,
I realized that if the old man didnÕt somehow stop his vehicle,
he would very shortly reach the end of the walkway, jump the curb,
and head back into on-coming traffic. I wanted to cover my eyes,
but somehow couldn't.
Had I not
volunteered to return my friend's library book, I realized, and
had the library not been closed when I dropped by last night,
I wouldn't have even been on this street, wouldn't have even know
about this moment. There must be some reason I'm here right now.
There must be.
with a precision that defies logic, the Chrysler clipped the side
of a large tree --- not enough to send its passenger headlong
through the windshield, or even set off its air bag, but just
enough to catch a piece of his left front tire and rip it from
the wheel. The tire shorn metal wheel now dug into the pavement,
sending sparks flying as the car ground to a precise halt just
one inch from the end of the sidewalk (and one inch from head-on
disaster). I waited for traffic to pass and then I backed my Rodeo
across three lanes and pulled to a stop just in front of the old
I jumped from my truck to see if he was all right, a woman who'd
been watching from a nearby parking lot arrived at his car at the
same time. The sweet old gentleman was dazed and confused (and who
wouldn't be after such a feat). But as I spoke to him I realized
that something else was wrong. "A stroke," I found myself
thinking. Another passerby quickly called 911. "Tell them he's
disoriented and very confused maybe a stroke," I said, as if
I'd had some kind of medical training (which I haven't).
With the help
of the passersby I pried the driver's door open and helped the
old man out from behind the wheel. After spying a wheel chair
and an oxygen tank in his back seat, we quickly assembled the
chair, sat him in it, covered him with a blanket and hooked his
oxygen up since his breathing was labored. "Will someone
call a tow truck?" the old man asked pleadingly. "It's
already done sir," the cell phone owner reassured him.
When the paramedics,
ambulance, and sheriff deputies arrived, it was confirmed the
driver had indeed had a stroke. By knowing that this was a possibility
ahead of time, the paramedics had phoned ahead. The hospital staff
would be waiting. "Every minute counts when you're dealing
with a stroke," the ambulance driver told me. After administering
an injection, they loaded my old friend into the ambulance. I
patted his hand as they prepared to shut the doors. "You
were very lucky," I told him. "IÕve never seen anyone
navigate an obstacle course like you did." He smiled at me
with a childlike expression. "Thank you for helping!"
he halted for moment, overcome by emotion, but then continued.
"Thank you for helping me not be afraid." A single tear
rolled down his cheek.
Next to us
a paramedic commented, "No way that old man could've driven
his car like that. That stroke left him unable to even move his
arms." "Angels," a crossing guard said. She was
one of the people who had dived out of the old manÕs way when
his car jumped up on the sidewalk. "Angels drivin' that car,"
she reiterated. "Split seconds," a deputy added. "It
all comes down to split seconds. And if it's not your time yet,
then miracles happen. It's like the whole universe conspires to
keep you alive." "You're a lucky one too," the
crossing guard said, looking at me. She'd seen my narrow escape
from a head-on collision. "Not my time," I said, looking
at the sheriff's deputy. "But it was your time to help this
old gent," the ambulance driver said, as he turned to jump
into his vehicle and head to the hospital. "Split seconds,"
I muttered. "Yep," the deputy said, patting me on the
back. "It all comes down to that." "Pretty amazing
how the whole scheme of things works," the cell phone owner
remarked. "I was going to turn up a different street, but
something told me to turn up this one."
We all looked
at each other and smiled. The whole universe had conspired today
to save an old man's life. And each of us had been called to play
a role in that conspiracy. "Split seconds," we said
to each other as we turned to get into our vehicles. "Split