The Kindness of Strangers
They say that opposites attract, and when it comes to my husband Bob and me, that old adage certainly rings true. He loves to watch zombie movies, while I seek out romantic comedies. He enjoys the independence of working from home, while I thrive on human interaction. His first stop in the book store is the History or Biography section, while I’m content to read Harry Potter for the millionth time. He is a horrible driver, while I am….well, let’s just say I think my skills behind the wheel are perfectly fine. Bob begs to differ.
Bob considers himself a “good”, bad driver, while referring to me as a “bad”, good driver. I follow the rules at all times. He decides when and where rules might apply. I think he’s too aggressive, he things I’m too cautious. It doesn’t matter if we are driving to the corner store or halfway across the country, Bob refuses to sit in the passenger seat when I am behind the wheel unless he is bleeding from every orifice or has slipped into a coma. That’s why I found it incredibly surprising when, on the way home from a family visit in northern New York, Bob pulled over and actually asked me to drive.
I settled comfortably into the seat, readjusted the mirrors, and we continued happily down the New York State Thruway. My 14-year old daughter Melissa sat curled under a blanket in the back, her IPod placed securely on her lap, earphones blocking out her parents mindless chatter. Bob watched the road for a few minutes, cautiously making sure that his decision to relinquish the wheel would not result in an untimely death for all three of us. Eventually, he succumbed to exhaustion and drifted off to sleep.
I would have gladly steered the car all the way through New York, onto the New Jersey turnpike and into our welcoming driveway, had my bladder not had other plans. So after about two hours, I turned off the highway into a rest stop, found a place to park, and shut off the engine.
Bob’s snores began to cease as he sensed that the car had come to a stop. He sat up and prepared to exit when I noticed that the strap from my pocketbook, which I had carelessly tossed onto the passenger seat floor, had somehow wrapped itself around his ankle.
In the magic of movies, emotional, dramatic moments are played out in slow motion so the viewer understands the full dramatic impact of the unfolding scene. As Bob got out of the car, special effects were not necessary as I watched, in mind numbing slow motion, as my husband, unaware of the strap that anchored him to the car, attempted to exit, but instead fell tragically to the ground.
Melissa, who had exited the car on the driver’s side, did not bear witness to the accident. I called out to her, struggling to get my seat belt off so I could jump out and rescue my husband. “Melissa, daddy fell!” I screamed, with panic in my voice.
I imagined him lying broken on the ground, bleeding, crying out for help. I imagined my family spending the rest of the day, and perhaps more, in the local emergency room. I imagined the absolute, very, very worst…..and in the few seconds it took to break free from the seat belt and run around to the other side of the car, I imagined living the rest of my life without him. Devastation, panic, horror, and unbridled fear all gripped my heart as I realized just how much I loved this man.
I approached the other side of the car, only to find that a stranger had reached my husband first, an older woman who had kindly extended her hand to help him to his feet. He assured me all was well, no bumps, bruises, or broken bones. Perhaps a bit of damage to his ego, but thankfully, nothing more. He brushed himself off and together, the three of us walked into the rest stop, while Melissa shook her head in embarrassment, convinced that her parents overreacted at the stupidest things.
We took care of business and wearily made our way back to the car. Suddenly, Bob reached for his shirt pocket, where he always keeps his phone. It was gone.
We deduced the phone must have escaped the confines of the shirt pocket when he fell, and a search of the grounds immediately ensued. The three of us combed the parking lot on hands and knees to no avail. The phone, the expensive phone, complete with internet access, email contacts, and a host of apps, had seemingly disappeared. Although disappointed, we took stock of the situation. Bob had survived unscathed from a scary fall. His health was all the mattered, the phone could be replaced.
As we admitted defeat, I glanced at the vehicle parked behind us. There, positioned in the center of the windshield, sat a phone, which, upon closer examination, proved indeed, to belong to Bob. Seems a stranger had discovered the phone on the ground and placed it on the windshield, assuming it had been returned to its rightful owner.
We climbed back into the car and resumed our journey, with Bob taking his rightful spot behind his wheel, and the phone taking its rightful spot in his pocket.
Thanks to the kindness of strangers.
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