Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Take the long way home

Blackfriars, shadowed
London, ON, October 2009

I took this photo tonight, as I slowly cycled my way home from an appearance on Rogers Television's Newsmakers Live. I was part of a panel of unbelievably cool people - a London Police Sergeant, a noted driving instructor, a Rogers product expert and, of course, host Bob Smith - discussing the new handsfree law (aka Bill 118) that went into effect in Ontario yesterday and essentially bans the use of conventional cell phone handsets while driving. It was an hour of live television that mattered, and I know it left viewers with something to ponder - which is why I love media as much as I do.

As I often do following a TV hit, I decompressed the experience in my mind, trying to learn and file away said learnings for next time. And for reasons that still make little sense so me, I felt a compelling need to stop my bike and take grainy, lousy pictures with my BlackBerry as I cycled through some of the dodgier streets in our burg. And because misery loves company, I felt similarly compelled to upload the results to Facebook (find me here) as I slowly moved across the map toward home.

It had been a particularly trying day - two of our kids were home sick, and Debbie ended up taking Zach to the hospital for a closer look at what may or may not have been pneumonia* - and I was feeling more than a bit pensive. So a bit of quiet time on a silent bike on a dark night was probably just what I needed.

Or so I convinced myself. My final picture was of a disturbing scene on a street barely five minutes from my house. An ambulance had stopped, lights flashing, in front of a 15-year-old Ford Crown Victoria. A black late-model Nissan Sentra was parked, hazards on, behind the stricken vehicle. As I passed this surreal scene, ambulance attendants were carefully removing the driver, an elderly man, from the driver's seat.

In the darkness, I heard a sob that will haunt me. It was guttural, almost animal-like in its tone and intensity. His wife, perhaps? I'll likely never know. I stood a respectful distance away, on the other side of the relatively busy four-lane road, and still that sound carried. I shuddered to think about what I was witnessing, whether another family was now going through what we had just experienced, whether the wave of loss would affect them as profoundly as it had affected us.

Suddenly my difficult day seemed so very trivial relative to what was unfolding in front of me. I felt I had no right to whine given whatever it was that had just befallen these complete strangers who I had randomly encountered on this night. My rather lame little pity party was over. I got back on the bike and finished the last two kilometres as quickly as my legs could manage. Prayers for this man and his family seemed so inadequate as I silently sliced through the night, but it was all I could manage.

Your turn: Cherishing what we have and not what we don't. Please discuss.

*He's home. On meds to clean up what the docs thought may have been a suspect streak on his lungs. Still his sweet self, thank G-d. The adventure continues...


carli said...

Was he sick on his birthday again? That kid has really rotten birthday luck.

Malinda777 said...

Somehow between our cute comments on Facebook about your Blackberry photos, and then reading this story... I had a sappy moment :)

I was reminded of what you witnessed on your bicycle with the ambulance, and then knowing how you felt - and I only began blogging in 2006 - and I don't write a whole lot anymore :(

However - on this day - perhaps there was karma - who knows who died or who didn't, but perhaps our stories intertwined?

In January of 2006 or 2007, when I had just barely started writing - I shared this story - which actually happened years before - I came back to Reno in 1996 ;)

It just fit - and I feel it necessary to share with you for some reason...


theMuddledMarketPlace said...

sitting in sorrow ....
prioritises life
in a way that nothing else can

i think that
with hindsight
it's a gift
to help us on the rest of the journey

kenju said...

There is nothing like the misfortunes of others to make us grateful for what we have left. You are a very rich man, Carmi; in your family, Morah Mommy and your children.

Mojo said...

Oh man, Zach was sick on his birthday? And judging from Carli's comment not for the first time? That sucks. Hope he's better soon.

Somebody before me mentioned that there's nothing like the misfortunes of others to put our own in perspective. I'd agree with that, but I think it's deeper than that. I think the tragedies that we witness can strengthen our humanity. Not that they always do, but those moments give us that opportunity.

Sadly, I happened on this bit of news late last night, as another friend of mine both in the cyber and real worlds lost her father after a long illness. Coping with the grief will be hard enough. But coping with what I'd have to guess is the sense of relief -- and the guilt that comes with that -- will be the really difficult part.

I only hope that if the gentleman in the Crown Vic did indeed part company with this plane, he did so peacefully. And that those he left behind will know some of that peace.

Carolyn said...

Oh, that poor man and his family! I've experienced those 'encounters' on days I thought the world owed me something, only to realize that what was taken from someone else was far greater than my own needs. It's always very sobering.

I'm praying Zack feels better soon & the Carmi household settles back to a somewhat normal & peaceful routine. It's been a rough few weeks for you guys.