More than once the kindness and generosity of strangers has touched and surprised me. But sometimes friends also show the depth of their generosity and affection.
I experienced both of these when my trip to a job interview near Elkhart, Indiana, went seriously awry.
The drive from my dorm in Columbus, Ohio to the hotel was supposed to take four and a half-hours. The interview would be the following day. I never made it to my hotel.
One moment, I was looking for something in the passenger’s side of my car, and the next moment, my car was hurtling down the grassy embankment. When I stopped, the air bag had deployed, my seat belt was ripped out of its holder, there was glass everywhere, and I was bleeding. A thin wisp of smoke came out of the front of the car and the doors wouldn’t open. I couldn’t get out.
Samaritan with a towel
Suddenly, a face appeared at the window. All I can remember of him is that he was Caucasian and slightly stocky; he wore a light blue shirt. He asked me if I was okay. I said that I was but that I couldn’t get out. He tried the door from the outside, but it wouldn’t open. The passenger door didn’t open either, but one of the back doors opened and I scrambled out of the car, grateful to escape.
I stood by the side of the highway as the traffic whizzed past, and when I told him that I was thirsty, he got some water from a truck driver and gave it to me. Since I felt weak, he made me sit in his car, which I remember had that “new car” smell. My left arm was bleeding from a cut and he gave me a clean white towel to stop the bleeding.
The firemen and the ambulance came quickly. They moved me out of the car and into the ambulance and in all my worries, I forgot to thank the stranger who had helped me. Or get his name.
ER in Elkhart
My doctor in a hospital in Elkhart turned out to be an Indian. What are the odds of that happening in the middle of Indiana?
The ER staff took good care of me and after stitching me up, the doctor asked if I had a place to stay. I told him that I would go to the hotel, but he said that he couldn’t allow me to be alone. The doctor wanted to be sure that there was no internal bleeding. Naturally, I didn’t want to stay at the hospital, so I told him that I knew someone I could call.
My friend Jim’s parents lived in South Bend, Indiana, about an hour’s drive from Elkhart. I had spent Christmas with them the previous year, and it had been a wonderful experience for me. Jim had given me his parents’ number and asked me to call if I had time. I kept it but wondered if I would.
At around 11.30 or so I woke them up. They didn’t hesitate but drove from South Bend to Elkhart in the middle of the night. Jim’s mom gave me a hug and maternal reassurances.
Everything was going to be all right.
The next day, Jim’s dad drove me from South Bend to the interview in Elkhart. After I’d finished (it went rather well, considering), he picked me up. Since I was in no position to drive, he even offered to drive me back to Columbus. I was touched but told him that I would take the Greyhound bus.
When I had the accident, I had been wearing my prized Ohio State Rose Bowl (1996) sweatshirt; after impact it had blood all over it. When the nurse at the hospital wanted to cut the sleeves out, I declined, and—through the pain—extricated myself from it. When I left South Bend, Jim’s mother handed me some home-made fudge, water, and the sweatshirt, which was now spotless. I’ll never forget that moment.
Even though my bus reached Columbus late, about 12.30 I think, Jim was there to pick me up and take me to my dorm. He told me that he’d drive me to the rental car agency the next day to deal with the accident report.
When I recollect this incident, these words from the character Lester Burnham in the film American Beauty come to mind:
“…And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life.”