Friday, December 18, 2009
A man named Mark saved my life today, and he doesn't know it. When the last student left after taking the exam in my class, it was 3 p.m. I made sure the computers were off, turned out the lights, and locked up the classroom. The building was empty except for the secretary; her husband would pick her up at 5 p.m. When we had looked out the window earlier, snow covered the commons area of the community college campus. By the time I walked out the door, slush covered the brick sidewalks. I shuffled to check out the traction. If the bricks weren't slick, I knew the asphalt should be fairly safe. One other car was on the far side of the parking lot and the snow was coming down fast and thick.
I ambled onto the road, driving slowly, but not too worried since the snow was fresh and not icy. The road crested a hill before snaking downwards. I wouldn't have given it much thought except a large SUV was sitting in the left lane with a crushed front end. The nose was pointed toward the yellow line, the back end leaned into the far ditch. Seeing the car made me slow down, but as I gently applied brakes to stop, I felt my own car try to fishtail. The road was much slicker than I had assessed, and this particular location was treacherous. Just ahead, a man was walking along the road towards the closest house.
Cell phone reception in this county is non-existent; the house looked empty. I rolled down my window and pulled up next to the man. "Do you need help or want a ride?" He stopped and looked at me. I could tell he was dazed, but seemed relieved. He knew the man in the house, but didn't think the owner was home. "Could you give me a lift home?" I didn't hesitate to let him get in the car.
As we moved forward, he told me where he lived, which wasn't too far. The shock was wearing off, and I could sense his shakiness. "When I saw the trees, I figured that was it for me," he said. He had decided to visit his friend "before the roads got bad." He came over the hill and started spinning before he realized what was happening. After bouncing off a tree, the car came to a rest on the opposite shoulder. He was bumped around, but fortunately avoided serious injury. Mark and I made quick introductions and I slowly drove him home.
"Should I call the sheriff? Or just get a tow-truck out here?" Mark was trying to decide the best course of action; his wife was out of town, and he was getting shakier by the minute. I suggested he call the sheriff to report the accident. At least then, he'd have it on record in case he wanted to file insurance. Noting he didn't have collision, I said, "Do it anyway; you'll regret it if you don't." His plan was to get his brother to drive him back to the scene of the accident. He also had another car at home.
When I dropped him off, I turned down his offer to reimburse me for gas. Instead, I thanked Mark. If I had not seen his accident, it would have been me on side of the road. Being in a much smaller car, I probably would not have survived, much less been able to walk.
On my way home, the snow came down harder, traffic was scarce, and the two-lane highways were barely visible under their white blanket. I drove carefully, thankful for the opportunity to not only help Mark, but to recognize that his accident saved me from tragedy.