Christmas gets on my nerves. A gazillion people on the road, stores clogged with shoppers, every merchant asking for donations for their pet charity. Grumpy customers, frazzled clerks, cranky children being dragged through the aisles. Bah humbug!
On this day all I needed was a bottle of low-dose aspirin, but it was not going to be fast. I wound my way through the maze of shopping carts to the medicine aisle. Dodging so many people it would have made Herschel Walker proud, at last I reached my prize. Considering how my blood pressure was rising, perhaps I should open the aspirins and chew one while waiting in line. I decided against it. If I died in line, maybe they would clear out faster. Did I mention bah humbug?
Why wasn’t the line moving? Everything in the store is a dollar. I mean really, is it that hard to count to five and ring it up? Or in the case of the lady in front of me, it was more like count to five hundred and ring it up. How much crap did she need, anyway?
Eventually I made it through the checkout without killing anyone, tossed the aspirin in the truck, and started down the road toward home. WHERE DID ALL THESE CARS COME FROM? Go away already! In the immortal words of Forrest Gump, I’ve got to pee! Get out of my way!
As I approached a T intersection about halfway home, I saw lights. Lights everywhere. Red, yellow, blue, white. Just great, I thought. A DWI checkpoint.
I was six cars back from the intersection. Sighing, I got out my license and insurance paper and waited. And waited. And waited some more. But the line didn’t move.
Then I noticed the ambulance. In the sea of other lights, I had missed it. And that vehicle I thought was the breathalyzer van turned out to be a fire truck. It was hard to tell in the darkness.
Fifteen minutes turned into thirty, and still nothing moved. Come on, cops! Write somebody a ticket and let’s get on with it!
Another fifteen minutes passed before anything moved. It was the ambulance. No lights, no siren, and not in any hurry. It lumbered off toward the hospital.
And then I understood. The F word.
No, not that F word.
The realization was like a dash of cold water in my face. It was a rude reminder of just what was important in life. And what is important is NOT how many people are in my way in the store. It’s NOT how long it takes to get through the checkout line. It’s NOT how much traffic is on the road.
No, what is important in life is the smile on a loved one’s face. It’s the moment when your children’s imagination is kindled. It’s the bouncing excitement of a loyal pet welcoming you home.
A young lady sat down in the road, her hands in her lap. I wondered what was her relation to the deceased. Had she lost a parent? Fiancé? Or God forbid, a child?
My face burned with shame as I thought about what a heel I had been. I wondered how many people in the other cars were having similar thoughts.
The young lady rocked side to side, hands still in her lap. With the lights of a state trooper’s car shining on her, I could make out a rosary in her hand. I wondered what she was praying. Was it the standard Hail Marys and Our Fathers? Surely she wasn’t performing a layman’s version of the Last Rites, in the absence of a priest? That last thought was particularly sobering. My heart went out to her.
A tow truck rolled in, and the young lady stood up and put away her rosary. There was some coordination with the troopers, and the tow truck hauled away the car. And then a second tow truck came. A mangled car I hadn’t seen, hidden behind the emergency vehicles, was towed away.
Eventually traffic resumed moving. An hour after I arrived at the accident, I was on my way home again, this time with a new, more thankful attitude. And a very urgent bladder.
If you have a mind to ease a soul, pray for those involved in the accident. Losing someone is difficult any time, but especially so at Christmas. May God grant them peace.