Kissing the Ground

10 11 2012

Hello from sunny Florida!  I am in the southeast on a Faces of Israel speaking tour, and it seems like a coincidence that I am still alive.

My travel schedule from Austin was fairly hectic with a mix of planes, taxis, a car service, a rented car and other assorted travel methods.  I presented two programs in Gainseville and Ocala on Wednesday night, stayed at the home of a lovely couple who have been married for over fifty years, and rented a car to drive south to Boynton Beach the next day.

I was psyched to be back on the road, and was looking forward to a leisurely afternoon stroll and driving break at Kissimmee Lake in the Orlando area.  Little did I know that my afternoon would prove to be more adventurous than planned.  The GPS in my car was inadvertently set to “Avoid Tolls” and so my four-hour trip down the turnpike became a seven-hour meander through stop lights, back country highways and the single-lane roads of north Florida’s countryside.

My Darling Wednesday Night Host Herb (and His Darling Amy)

My Wednesday Night Host Herb (and His Lovely Amy, Not Pictured)

I Nabbed a Ten-Minute Leg Stretch in Beautiful Kissimmee Given The Time Crunch

I Nabbed a Ten-Minute Leg Stretch in Beautiful Kissimmee Given The Time Crunch

Displeased about the turn of the events but still trying to appreciate the ride, I began listening to a Stuff You Should Know podcast about happiness and kept my eyes on the road.  Suddenly and without warning, the GPS on my dashboard became unstuck and fell toward my feet – knocking with it my iPod holder, computer charger and assorted cables.  Not wanting to leave the debris by my feet lest it endanger my driving, I looked straight ahead, stabilized the wheel and quickly leaned down to chuck the fallen items into the back seat.

And that was when everything went wrong.  In that split second, I felt the car angrily and vigorously lurching forward over bumpy terrain, my windshield a blur of green.  I was off the road and speedily heading toward a barrier.  I grabbed the wheel and turned hard, trying to stabilize the car and save myself from the impending crash.  The maneuver indeed saved me from the barrier, but threw the car back onto the highway and launched me into dizzying circles at 70 miles per hour – both the speed limit on the highway and the speed at which I was traveling.

Up until this point, everything had sped up.  My instincts had taken over – for better or worse – but my brain was hardly processing.  As the car spun in circles, everything began to slow down and I realized that this could be it.  I was moving too quickly to know if there were cars behind me or coming toward me in the next lane over.  I knew that I would unquestionably be paralyzed or killed (or worse) if there was an impact at this speed.

And in that moment, I marveled over the fact that – a minute prior – I was listening to a podcast on happiness and was philosophically questioning (as many people do) how happy I was right then.  In those seconds, I laughed at the fact that – just moments before – I had been semi-grudgingly cycling through a long list of to-dos that I had to take care of for Jewrotica.  And as I spun, I mourned and mused over the seeming randomness of life and the fact that I might have just spent my entire life developing skills, building my character and preparing myself – but for what, as it might be over any second now?

Incoming Traffic (pulled from Google Images)

Incoming Traffic (photo pulled from Google Images)

My car slowed down and came to a stop, the front of the car facing incoming traffic on the second lane of the backroad highway.  And that’s when I saw it – a white van hurdling in my direction.  But my car wouldn’t start.  There was no time to get out.  And I thought: This is it.  Either he is able to stop short, or he’s not.  And as he came toward me – in what couldn’t have been more than a few seconds but felt much longer – I made eye contact with him and hoped.  And he slowed down, and stopped.

The man pulled to the side of the road, and I managed to maneuver the car back into my lane.  Miraculously, there wasn’t a scratch on the vehicle as there had been no real impact – just a lot of grass and shrubs stuck in the wheels and bumper.  I composed myself and I called him over.

Oddly, Strangely, Miraculously - Not a Scratch on the Car (Taken the Next Day)

Oddly, Strangely, Miraculously – Not a Scratch on the Car (Taken the Next Day)

Though It Did Take a While to Get all the Grass Out (This is After a Clean)

Though It Did Take a While to Get all the Grass Out (This is After a Clean)

“What happened?!  What happened?”, he asked.

“I don’t know.  I don’t know.  Should I get out of the car?  Is it safe?”

He confirmed that the car looked fine, and I added “I think I need to hold your hand for a minute.  Can I do that?”

“Yeah, okay”, he responded.

He extended his hand through the lowered window and I sat in the driver’s seat, frazzled, holding this stranger’s hands for just a couple of moments.

“I need to pull over somewhere.  Is there a shoulder or turn-out up ahead?”

“Yeah, there’s a place just up the road.”

I thanked the man (whose name I do not know), took a deep breath and turned the car back on.  I drove a mile down the road, and parked the car at the entrance of a rural Florida farm.  I got out, sat on the ground and… sat.  I just sat.  And breathed.  And lifted my gaze and arms toward the sky above.

In Judaism, there is a blessing for everything, and the blessing upon surviving a dangerous or life-threatening situation is called Birkat Hagomel.  It is customary to recite the blessing in the presence of a minyan, but – until I find one – our blog community will have to do.  And, so:

Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the universe, Who bestows kindness upon the unworthy, for He has bestowed on me every goodness.

posted by ayo

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9 responses

10 11 2012
Yair

I am so glad that you emerged without a scratch. Really, so, so glad.

So ever happy that you are okay…

11 11 2012
breakingupwithnormal

Wow Ayo….what an experience! And as I believe all things come to us for a reason, am pondering what the purpose was behind this. In any case, very glad to know you are very much alive and well.

11 11 2012
Eliana

Hey Ayo!

I just wanted to tell you that I read your blog post about your car adventure and a) I’m so glad you’re ok! and b) it was really beautifully written and really expressed the intensity of the moment and your gratitude for life. So, thanks for sharing!

I’d love to hear more about what you’re up to with your tour. And if you’re in northeast Ohio before next May, let me know!

11 11 2012
Tante Debbie

Oh Amy, I am so relieved that you are Ok. What a scary incident. How life can change in one second! XOXOXOX

11 11 2012
Aaron F.

מי שגמליך כל טוב, הוא יגמליך כל טוב.

11 11 2012
Eitan G.

Im glad to hear that you are ok!

11 11 2012
Talia

that is super super scary! 😦 I’m so glad you are okay! 🙂

12 11 2012
Lisa

Ayo, you are blessed a second time because there are so many people, even those who have never met you in person, who are very thankful you made it out of that episode with nary a scratch. I had almost the exact same thing happen to me – donuts in the middle of the highway, stopping facing traffic going the opposite direction – when I was just a new driver many years ago. That memory, and the attendant gratefulness for coming out alive, has stuck with me all my years.

2 01 2013
ayo

Thanks for all the love, friends.

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