“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” – Ann Landers
I was doing my biweekly perusal of Onlysimchas, and I recognized the name of a guy I dated. I’m always surprised at how happy I am to see the names of “exes” up there. I am particularly happy for this guy. He was special.
It was the end of what had been a pretty nice first date, and we were driving home on the NYS Thruway. It was dark, the roads were wet because it had been raining, and I could tell he was uncomfortable by the way he was gripping the wheel. We were talking when, without warning, there was a loud bang and the car lurched forward. I thought, ok, we’ll pull over, the police will come, we’ll fill out some papers, and we’ll go home. But then the car began to move, and he wasn’t steering. We were spinning, he was screaming, “hold on” over and over again, and I remember thinking, as we slammed into the concrete barrier, the airbags deployed, and we careened back onto the highway, that people don’t always come out of these things, that I might die tonight, now, and then thinking nothing at all.* We finally hit the guardrail again and then as suddenly as it started it stopped – all in about six seconds.
It’s amazing how loud a spinning car can be. I didn’t realize until it was over, and the car got really quiet. It could have been me, like a mental quiet, that first surreal second when your mind blocks everything out as you process what just happened. Then I heard him yelling, “Are you ok? Are you hurt? Are you sure you’re ok?” I answered him, but he didn’t seem convinced and proceeded to inquire about my welfare many more times over the course of the evening. The next few seconds were a blur, but I remember looking down and being surprised to see my hand on his shoulder as he dialed 911. We got out of the car, and as soon as we did, a middle aged man (not Jewish by all appearances) ran over to us and asked us if we were ok. We later learned that he was not a policeman or an EMT, but he had seen what happened and stopped to help. He told us to wait behind the guardrail away from the car, took out flashlight and started directing cars away from us. A few moments later, two Jewish women in pants and sweatshirts pulled over as well. They were on their way home and stopped to see if they could be of any assistance. They asked us if we were ok, offered to have us wait in their car (it was raining again) and to give us a ride back when we were ready. I can’t really describe that feeling, standing in the rain with four strangers on a dark highway at 11:00 at night and feeling like I was with friends.
The police, fireman, and paramedics arrived shortly after, and they were all extremely nice. Between them and my date, I was probably asked around 50 times if I was ok (yes) and if I wanted to have an EMT “take at look at me” (no, thank you, really).** My mom came, his mother called (he was from out of town) and insisted on speaking to me to make sure I was ok, and on the way home, he apologized profusely. I remember thinking, when things quieted down, that it was really kind of extraordinary that when both our lives were hanging in the balance, he was thinking of me, yelling to hold on. When we arrived at the place where he was staying, he asked if he could call me the following day to see how I was doing. And he did.
Yes, we did go out again. No, it didn’t work out, but I still think he handled a difficult situation with as much poise as can be reasonably expected in a situation of that nature. And now he’s engaged!! Congratulations to a fantastic guy!!
* Which, by the way, is normal. An aspiring psychologist I later dated told me that the psychological term for my detachment is depersonalization.
** That was probably not a wise move, and I have a nice scar to prove it. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, you really should allow the EMTs to do their stuff.