A slight continuation of yesterday’s post: Compulsion (Because We Haven’t Yet Found a Great Noun For Compel).

photoYears ago, I was driving from D.C. to Pittsburgh when my car suddenly made a bad, squealing noise and went from 60 to 0 mph in 8 seconds flat on a mountainside outside Breezewood. I managed to get it to the side of the road before it died completely. I got out (by the way, never do that on a fast mountain road when your car dies a foot from the travel lane), couldn’t fix the part that had blown, (I later learned it was a sensor that had gone bad and kept telling the engine to quit or it would overheat), tried to get back in when I suddenly looked up to see a tractor trailer headed right for me. I jumped to driver’s side door and pressed myself, spread-eagle, against my car and managed not to get clipped.

(Thinking back on it, I turned my head so my cheek pressed against the plastic jeep window. It was my left cheek; I was facing the semi, not turned away. Hmmm… Facing the doom.)

Eyes wide open now, I got back in the car to find I was out of cell phone range. Ahead, another tractor trailer had stopped ahead of me, and I watched the driver get out and walk toward my car. I (checked the rear view mirror this time) and got out to meet him. He may have been a crazy person, but my sitting in the car wasn’t a much better option. The short version: It’s 9 p.m., the car isn’t fixable on the side of the road, the car also won’t budge, this guy drives me to Breezewood (my hand on the passenger door handle the entire way as I sized him up: he was an older fella, a little portly, and I felt I could outrun him), I call a tow truck, we eat sandwiches, he offers to let me tag along with him and he’ll drop me at the Allegheny Valley interchange 120 miles away, my mom calls and insists that he give her his address, phone number, social security and driver’s license numbers over the phone, all this took time, he and I finally hit the road. En route, he tells me stories of seeing stranded drivers on the side of the road, and because he’s in a very tall semi, he can see that the stranded driver is just a decoy and that there are a couple of armed fellas hiding in the bushes along the ditch, waiting for a do-gooder to stop to help.

“I didn’t see anyone in your case,” he said. “But the tall grass could have hidden just about anyone.”

I asked why he stopped. He gave the answer of a champion.

“I took a chance,” he shrugged. “I’ve lived a good life. If I met my end on that road helping someone, then so be it.”

We got to Allegheny Valley at 3 in the morning. My mom was there to pick me up, safe, sound, unharmed. Was I lucky? Hell yes. Was he? Equally yes. Was he jaded about roadside traps but worked his way through it? Yes.

In no way am I endorsing such a story. But it happened. And only because this driver saw a situation and was compelled to dig deeper. And really, I sit here typing this today just as I sat in traffic thinking about it yesterday: By divine intervention that that first semi didn’t clip me in the first place, or that the time I tried to rewire my own kitchen and barely managed not to burn the place down I didn’t meet my end, and let’s not forget the time my physics teacher said there were 30,000 volts running through a spark on our experiment and not to touch it—and yours truly touched it…

I’ve been living on borrowed time for quite a while.

The beauty is that when it’s all borrowed time, we can dig deeper. We’re gonna get chewed up and spit out and we’re gonna get let down by people who know better and we’re gonna get our hearts broken by someone we love. And we’ll be better people for it only when we learn to let go of the grudge.

It’s time to jump in and earn our scars.

Sensors be damned.

My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon. I’ll sign it for you.