Wednesday, June 29, 2011

365 Jobs, Day 180: Pairs

Friday, June 29, 1990
There's a popular bicycle loop where skinny people in tight outfits pedal slowly up Old La Honda Road and then speed screaming downhill on Highway 84. 

Today I'm driving to work down Highway 84 following a woman who is bent to the handlebars going 30 to 40 miles per hour in the middle of my lane.  On this curvy road I can't pass her and couldn't go any faster than her, anyway.

On one curve she leans - the wheels slip sideways - and she hits the asphalt sliding and flailing.  I slam on the brakes.  Swerving left to avoid her I go into a skid on the painted center line.  Helplessly she looks up at the oncoming tires.

I skid into the opposite lane.  Good luck: I miss her.  Double good luck: no oncoming traffic.  I could easily have skidded right into her head.  A car behind me has stopped, blocking the lane to protect the fallen woman with hazard lights flashing.  A man is already running to her.  I move the truck to a shoulder, run back. 

The other man has already taken charge of the situation.  The woman tries to get herself up, then lays back down.  She appears to have injured her neck.  She wore a helmet.  The man says he's an off-duty paramedic - more good luck.  Nobody has a cell phone - this is 1990.  A woman shouts from a nearby house that she's called for help.  We're all instantly members of a rescue team, strangers.

When the situation is under control, I drive on - warily.

I repair a leaky bathtub faucet and perform a few other fix-it chores at a rental unit occupied by a fragile man who I've never met.  His father, Elgin, is always the one to call me and to meet me at the son's rental to let me in.  I like Elgin - he's the one who told me he has "champagne taste on a beer budget" as he slowly improves a raggedy house in a bad neighborhood.  The invisible son seems extremely tidy and has a fondness for Shaker furniture.  Elgin seems to clear the way for his son to live a quiet life avoiding encounters with the rough-and-tumble commercial world of which, apparently, I am part.

Driving home, I come upon a second bicycle accident.  This time it's a woman on Portola Road.  It's bad.  Cops, paramedics, flashing lights.  She's being covered by a blanket.

Must be a full moon.

Back home my boys Jesse and Will, age 13 and 8, tell me that big Dave Stewart of the Oakland A's is working on a no-hitter, so I join them watching the last 3 innings.  And he does it!  Couldn't happen to a better guy.  As the team mobs him, I'm moved to tears.  Maybe I'm in a vulnerable state, loosened up by the bicycle accidents.

I have some dinner, putter around, and learn that Fernando Valenzuela is working on a no hitter, so we watch the end of that one, too.  He succeeds!  Wow!  I’m glad, but no tears.  I mean I like Valenzuela but it's the Dodgers, for Pete's sake.

I try to find meaning in these events, something about teamwork, about caring for others, about good and bad things coming in pairs.

No.  No meaning.

The planet is swarming with sparks of random tragedy, random triumph, every day since life began.

All we have is love.

In the sky, it's only a half moon.  Half light, half dark.

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