Unity of the adventure
Rochester, NY is known for a few things; like being home to the Kodak Film Co., Zwaggals Hot Dogs, their delicious Garbage Plate, and being bitterly cold in the winter. I spent this particular weekend in Rochester working on some demos in the studio. Mark’s brother was in a band and they had a pretty killer recording set up at his house.
On a good day the trip from Rochester back up to campus took about 4 hours. Winter weather however, is always somewhat of an unpredictable mystery. Between the lake effect snow, incoming nor’easters, and the occasional ice storm, the ride to Potsdam, NY can stretch out to six or seven hours. This was one of those rides; driving ten to fifteen miles under the speed limit, through white-out snow, wearing out whatever cd was in the deck. It was somewhere in the seventh hour that the snow turned to ice. The sun was setting and the road began to freeze.
Other vehicles had already pulled over but I am from New England. We believe we’re nearly invincible when it comes to storms and we are stubborn. I kept driving. I drove with the car in low gear and went no faster than 10 miles an hour. As I crested a hill and began the descent my wheels started to slip on the now thickening sheet of ice that had replaced the pavement. My little car was drifting. I knew I was in trouble.
My car slid off the road and hit another car, it was the only other vehicle for miles. Crunch! I got out and assessed that there wasn't any serious damage. Nor was there anyone around. I managed to get my little car out of the ditch and out of the way but there would be no more driving in this weather. The road was a sheet of ice.
My cell phone had no reception, the temperature was below freezing and dropping, and I was alone on highway 11 with a car in the ditch and nothing but a set of ice skates in the trunk. Staying in my car until it ran out of gas and I started losing appendages to frostbite seemed like a bad plan. Not that my contingency was much better. You know that Joni Mitchell song about skating away on a river? I kind of tried to do that. I strapped on that pair of ice skates in the trunk, locked my car, and started gliding – quite ungraciously – down the road. My skating escapade lasted about two miles before a set of head lights was shining behind me. Miss Annette and her family were intending on driving from NYC to their daughter’s new college due north. Unfortunately they had driven about 4 hours west when I met them. Miss Annette was a Jazz singer on the lower east side – a lovely women with a beautiful family. The picked me up and we braved the next several miles together. I told them about driving in a lower gear for traction and they told me about their crazy road trip across the state of New York. Eventually we made it into town, eyes tight from laughing.
They dropped me off at the top of the block. I waved goodbye and they shouted, “Thanks for being our angel on ice skates.” Since I left my shoes back in my car I clopped up the steps to my friends' house like a kid on the first day of pewee hockey. The next morning there was a knock on the bedroom door.
"J, the NY State Police are on the phone."
“Son we are going to need you to come down to the station and fill out some paper work.”
Good morning to you too officer.
I went to the station and told them what happened. They were practically rolling on the floor as I told the story. One of the officers had actually seen me and thought for sure I was a drunken fool out of his mind. I got a ticket for "skating away from the scene of damaged property" but to be truthful, it was totally worth it. I called the woman whose car I damaged to apologize and she was very gracious.
While I only shared a short period of time with Miss Annette and her family they were grateful for my company, the story, and even the advice from someone who had just learned the hard way what not to do. If anything, they saved me from my own silliness. But being an “angel” to them wasn’t like a hero reaching down and pulling a peasant out of the dirt, saying, “Oh you poor thing – let me help you.” It was all of us on the same adventure together; they were saving me too. I wonder if the greatest heroes don’t rescue victims but rather rescue friends. When we come along side of each other and really see one another like neighbors and family then we give and receive so great a help. The dualism of “us” and “them” begins to break, and the unity of loves begins to triumph.
“I wonder if anything is more urgent today, for the honour of Christ and for the spread of the gospel, than that the church should be, and should be seen to be, what by God’s purpose and Christ’s achievement it already is – a single new humanity, a model of human community, a family of reconciled brothers and sisters who love their Father and love each other, the evident dwelling place of God by his Spirit. Only then will the world believe in Christ as Peacemaker. Only then will God receive the glory due to his name.” -John Stott, God's New Society