Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Angels on My Dashboard

The front right tire on my car started losing air because of a large pothole encounter. (I know, that's life in the 21st-century American Big City ~ I need to be much more alert to the likelihood that a new pothole will suddenly appear anywhere, on any road I travel, from one day or hour to the next).

Now, I like thinking about car maintenance about as much I enjoy thinking about America's war crimes. Not much. But both things are deserving of at least occasional attention. So, two or three weeks into a temp-repair with that foam stuff my husband the mensch bought and squirted into the tire for me ~ and after feeling the car start to shudder a lil'bit last Sunday afternoon when I hit about 65 mph on the Santa Monica Freeway (wooHOO!) ~ it was definitely time to address the new tire purchase (and overdue tire rotation).

Having a buddy system in one's life is a blessing, full stop. To my aid again came my hub ~ moments outta bed in pj's, and with a grin on his face, even ~ who traded cars with me in the garage early this morning, so he could take mine later in the day to Davis Brothers (in business since the 1920s!) and deal with the tire thing for me. That meant I had full benefit of his iPod's 2700+ song catalog from which to shuffle on the ride, since the device all but resides connected to the sound system in his vehicle.

I took the opportunity to be thankful for the support and a life of reasonable comfort, to ask the angels (like I do from time to time) to continue to be with us and ours, to keep watching out for us, and thanking them for that. Before leaving the garage, I turned on the music and pushed the advance button on the music interface until settling on an old GoGo's song that well suited my mood (and, for the first time in many times hearing the song, found it ironic to be singing in full voice, "There's a weapooooon that we must use... in our defense.... Siiiiiilence"), then settled into driving mode and took off for a new work day.

It was immediately wackadoodle out there. At the top of my block at the green light, I found myself behind a poor driver (and I mean his skills, not socio-economic condition) who stacked up traffic halfway back down our long block while he waited to make a left turn. No one could get by him, because he'd squared himself flat in the middle of the one wide lane forward, and wouldn't pull into the intersection. No one but him advanced on that light, one of the longest waits of a light in the neighborhood in the first place. S'allright. I got a honk in for good measure as he took off. So much for silence. I didn't feel good about feeling impatient, so made a note to chill.

As I continued through the neighborhood towards a freeway exit, a larger than usual number of cars were driving swervy, rabbiting around corners, and generally acting crazy. I couldn't put it on a full moon, so made a mental note to beware meandering motor madness, and kept my way carefully along, shuffling the music, using the opportunities of red lights and occasionally stalled traffic to sing, stretch, and do a couple of vision strengthening exercises I viewed up on YouTube.

Driving north on the 405 a bit later in the commute, an Elvis Costello song came on. I remembered the last time I was driving this particular car, when I'd enjoyed a singalong with "Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes", but this particular Elvis number wasn't doing it for me. So I pushed advance again while exiting the freeway at Santa Monica Boulevard, where the two exit lanes turn left into three westbound lanes that skirt underneath an overpass of our fair city's most notorious freeway. I chose the leftmost of the left-turn lanes (huh, come to think of it, I am a bit of a leftist) because 1. no one else was in it (yet), and 2. there was a ginormous flatbed loaded with vehicles already positioned to turn left in the rightmost left-turn lane. But first we had to wait out a red light.

Anywho, I advanced to the next musical selection, and what comes on but Brian Eno and Harold Budd (wish I could remember which song). I took advantage of the minute-or-so wait to soak in their lusciously lovely ambience and breathe... Ahhhhh! A bit of bliss just a few minutes before launching into the hectic pace of the now close-by office. I was mindful again of angels, feeling thankful for so much, then realized the light was green and I wanted to position myself in the leftmost of three lanes across westbound Santa Monica, while keeping clear of the ginormous flatbed as I made the turn.

Swoooosh! Safely around the corner, under the 405, and first in line in the far left lane at the red light on the other side of the overpass, where something like 11 lanes come together at one intersection. Eno & Budd were wrapping it up (the song was less than two minutes), the big truck was in the far right lane well away from me, and the light turned green.

Those things that happen in a flash are just so amazing. My ears still ring from it. (Or maybe that's the angels singing to be thankful that everyone's physically okay and isn't that the BEST thing!) The small nondescript sedan now directly to the right of me, driven by a beautiful, professional-looking woman, got off the line first. So when the lady in the SUV ran the red light as she came barreling southbound ~ and I saw her coming from far right in my peripheral vision (thank you, eye exercises!) ~ it was the car directly next to me that was smashed on its front right side... then pushed at what felt like lightning speed directly into my path. Nothin' to do but break HARD, hear the crash connection, and be amazed to find myself stopped mere inches from the two impacted vehicles. Thank heavens for anti-lock brakes (wooHOO!). 

And there we were. Only three-and-half to four of those 11 lanes were going ANYwhere for a long while.

I took a few moments to breathe and take in the scene before me, then turned off the car and listened. No one was screaming in pain. That was a relief. From where I sat, I could see on the far side of the wreck that the SUV lady was conscious if really shaken (of course), and the sedan lady looked stoically stunned. I got out of the car, saw SUV lady now sobbing and holding her neck as she spoke into her cell phone (was she on it while running the light?), and asked if they were OK. SUV lady looked at me, then dropped her head into her cell phone conversation. Sedan lady nodded.

I approached sedan lady's badly crunched car, and saw her eyes glisten with tears as she looked at me through her lowered window and said, "Did she run that light?" (Perhaps her peripheral vision needs some work?) I paused as I took in the possibility that perhaps she really had no idea, that perhaps she hadn't checked to see or hear if the intersection was clear before jumping ahead, much less to watch for potholes.

"Yes," I responded, "she surely did." Sedan lady got out of the car slowly, still stoic, revealing as lovely an attire as I would expect from her demeanor, which seemed firm if soft, even under such an unfortunate circumstance. We stood there, two strangers sharing a moment they'll long not forget, and she sighed hard, regarding the car, gently shaking her head back and forth.

"You're really OK?" I asked.

"I'll be okay," she replied. "Thank you." I touched her arm because 1. I felt drawn to do it, and 2. because the human touch is known to be healing, especially in unfortunate times.

"Okay," I said, "then everything's gonna be alright." She started dialing her cell phone (SUV lady was still on hers), and said nothing else, much less ask me to be a witness. They didn't need me there clogging up the intersection more than it already was. It was a clear case of red-light running. So there wasn't much else to do but return to my car.

Because I had chosen the far left lane purposefully, to stay clear of the big truck that was now well stuck ~ like thousands of other motorists, all backing up down the boulevard because of a majorly blocked intersection, creating additional traffic hell for those transversing the Westside on the poor ol'405 ~ I was now free to restart the car and worm my way through a space just big enough to meander around the conjoined crashed cars, an opportunity available because of the trapped traffic that resulted from a clueless driver who ran a red light at an intersection... the opposite of the beginning of the commute, where I was trapped at a green light resulting from a clueless driver who wouldn't pull into an intersection. Curious balance, that.

Workin' the peripheral vision thing
So... what's to learn here? I'm grounding in the realization that I could've been a part of that crash today if I hadn't been in such a nicely balanced state of relaxed yet alert. Unquestionably, I'm thankful for the angels who were looking out for me on Santa Monica Boulevard this morning, guiding me to the far left and encouraging me to chill and bliss out when and where I reasonably can, because the world surely could use more Agents of Calm.

I think I'll find that Eno & Budd song on the house Mac that feeds my husband's iPod.... maybe do some eye exercises under its ethereal sway. Yeah. Add it to the next CD mix for my car, with its fresh new wheels from a non-corporate shop (thanks to that menschy guy in my life). I'll put "Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes" on the CD, too. Even and especially when living in the City of Angels, one can't have too many celestially beneficent reminders.... they'll prove to be all for the better when life inevitably hits the proverbial pothole.


  1. Great story, Susan.... Blessings you weren't even touched. Reminds me of a time I was saved from being crashed into by my state of mind/angels.

    Your writing is so eloquently rich and your practice of Spirit is always inspiring and reminding for me. Love, Love, Love You!

  2. You've gotta know, you've been an immense inspiration to my appreciation for not only conjoining in loving multiversal Sprit, but also in grounding it to and receiving it from our beloved Pachamama ~ Love, Love, Love U 2, JJP xoxox