Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Grace, Mercy, and Timing—and Other Mysterious Things

I spent Sunday evening and Monday morning in Dalton, Georgia attending the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia General Assembly and Monday evening and Tuesday morning in Woodstock, Georgia attending the Georgia Baptist Convention Annual Meeting. More on that schizophrenic experience will come at another time.

Today I want to talk about the trip home.

What was left of Hurricane Ida was hovering over Georgia as I drove from Woodstock, which is a tad north of Atlanta, back to Fitzgerald, which is way south of Atlanta, so the trip was shrouded in rain accompanied by irritation.

My good wife had an understandable emotional reaction to being without me for two days and as a result came down with a bad cold. (The true phrases in the preceding sentence are “my good wife” and “came down with a bad cold.”) Being committed to making every effort at being a good husband, I decided to get off of I-475, the bypass that travelers on I-75 can employ to avoid the massive traffic characteristic of Macon, and go to the Fresh Market to buy her some roses.

The preceding sentence needs two explanatory notes.

Note #1: My good wife likes roses, especially yellow ones. When, in the middle of my Ph.D. work at Southern Seminary, I attended the 1984 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Dallas, Texas—now referred to in the history books as the “Mother of all Baptist Battles”—and thus was away—far, far away--on our sixth wedding anniversary, I got the bright idea to call a florist in Dallas and order her a dozen yellow roses—thus, you see, yellow roses of Texas—which shows how smart I am since the florist in Texas of course called one in Louisville who in turn delivered some yellow roses of Kentucky to Debra .

Note #2, which is especially for you other romantic or romantic wannabe husbands out there, has two parts. Note #2A: Wives dig flowers, so buy them flowers. Note #2B: If you have a Fresh Market store near you, buy her roses at Fresh Market; they sell really nice ones for $6.95 a dozen—she’ll think you spent three times that much. Which reminds me—I think I paid $45 for that dozen yellow Texas/Kentucky roses back in 1984, which, given our financial status then as compared to now (and we’re nowhere near wealthy now), would be something like $4500 in today’s dollars. But I was (and am) in love and besides, she had given birth to our firstborn just four months before.

So I went to the Fresh Market in Macon and bought a dozen yellow roses which cost me about thirty minutes, which was time well spent, and $6.95, which was money well spent.

My mission accomplished, I got back in my rented Hyundai Accent (seriously) and headed south, enjoying the pitter-patter of rain on the windshield and the occasional good-humored splash from a passing semi.

It was somewhere between Cordele, where for some reason a rocket or missile of some sort sits serenely beside the Krystal that is just off the interstate (and I’ve been looking at that rocket/missile for over thirty years now and have never cared enough to find out why it’s there), and Ashburn, where they have a Fire Ant Festival every March, that I spotted it: a gold minivan with a ladder fastened to its roof and a “Direct TV” sign on its side. Its appearance was interesting, but its behavior was downright mesmerizing; it was speeding up and slowing down, weaving from lane to lane, straddling the line between two lanes, veering over into the median, and generally taking what appeared to be completely unnecessary evasive maneuvers given that I saw no one in pursuit.

I watched it for a couple of minutes, trying to keep my distance, until I satisfied myself that the driver obviously had some sort of impairment, be it naturally or artificially induced, so I took out my cell phone and dialed 911. The operator came on and asked, “Do you have an emergency?” to which I replied, “It sure looks like it” and I then proceeded to describe what I was seeing. While I was still on the line, she contacted a Deputy Sheriff and then told me that they would be intercepting the dangerous driver; meanwhile I told her that the driver had pulled over to the median and stopped. I hung up.

I was driving along in the middle lane when the minivan came flying by me in the right hand lane. I watched him speed away and then I watched as it, as the commentators on the telecast of the Daytona 500, the only NASCAR race I ever watch, say, “got loose,” swerved hard to the left, crashed into the concrete wall that thankfully divides the southbound from the northbound lanes of traffic, and came to rest, smashed but right side up, in the middle lane. I, along with two other drivers, pulled over to see if we could help. While I called 911 back to report the crash, a lady went out to the wrecked vehicle to find, amazingly, the driver climbing out of the vehicle, showing no outward signs of injury.

Turner County sheriff’s deputies, Georgia State Patrol officers, an ambulance, and other rescue personnel soon arrived to take care of the driver and to work the wreck.

Several matters related to grace, mercy, and timing occurred to me as I reflected on these events.

First, given the usual traffic on I-75, it is remarkable that the minivan struck no other vehicles.

Second, given that there is not a dividing wall on every stretch of I-75, it was fortuitous that there was one on that stretch that prevented the minivan from crossing over into oncoming traffic.

Third, given the impact between minivan and concrete wall that I witnessed, it is amazing that the driver walked away.

Fourth, given that had I not stopped to buy a dozen yellow roses for my good wife I would have been nowhere near that minivan when it wrecked, it is worth pondering how one choice puts you in one situation while another choice puts you in another and how the possible combinations are apparently infinite.

Grace, mercy, and timing…three great, great mysteries.

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