Saturday, January 19, 2013

running late



     Stale doughnuts prevented me from dying on the highway.
     Don’t get me wrong. I like doughnuts as much as the next person, and better yet, I am a master at seeking out bargains. However, I was tired and in a hurry to head home after a weekend convention in Albany.
     I wasn’t in the driver’s seat, so to speak, and as a passenger I expressed my lukewarm displeasure in my friend Charlotte’s desire to make a quick stop for a snack—“only five minutes” she assured me—before we rolled out of the city. After all, she was the driver, and I let it go.
     Truthfully, the New York State Thruway had more appeal than a bakery thrift store selling day-old breads and assorted bakery products taken off the supermarket shelves the previous night.  I wandered around the store not seeing anything much that I wanted except a box of crullers coated with powdered sugar for snacking on the five -hour trip.
    Charlotte and I had been shopping together for almost as long as we had known each other as elementary teachers, and she rivaled me in stamina. I liked that spunkiness in her. Once we left school at dismissal and kept up a vigorous pace until closing time in downtown Rochester. It was exhilarating, and we gained in friendship and clothes to boot.
     I did notice early on that Charlotte had one fault: she was one of those people that “ran late.” “I’ll pick you up at 9,” usually meant 10, and “I have to do a couple errands in town before we can head off” was a normal occurrence when she drove. It didn’t matter if I was the driver or not, she always was behind schedule. I learned to live with it, and on this Sunday morning the delay made all the difference.
     Little did Charlotte and I know while we cruised westward re-living our favorite sessions at the conference wiping the white sugary powder crumbs from our black pants that the drive would not be a smooth sail home.
     You see, the bridge over the Schoharie Creek near Fort Hunter, Montgomery County, collapsed taking cars and trucks plunging with it just five minutes before we came to a dead stop along with hundreds of other vehicles backed up for miles. A record rainfall had caused bridge scour (porous holes) at the foundations. All told, ten people were killed.
    Charlotte and I didn’t realize the extent of the calamity until a volunteer responder came to our car and informed us that we would be going on a detour route as soon as things calmed down in an hour or so.  
    Leaving Albany five minutes earlier, or 300 seconds to be precise, without the bakery stop, and I would not be here to write this down on paper.
   Charlotte and I were under the protection of a guardian baker. Call it superstition or not, from that day forward when someone driving says, “let’s stop for a few minutes,” I am good to go joyfully knowing my life was spared one Sunday morning, April 5, 1987.