Monday, December 6, 2010

Right Place, Right Time

Our bartender friend Scribbler of Behind the Stick has an amazing story up at his place, recounting his cosmic experience of going to Elaine’s last Friday, following the news of her death. It has to do with a key lost, and a key returned. Go visit to read his strangely magical tale.

His story reminded me of a time when the universe put me in a very specific place, at a very specific time, in order to help someone I didn’t know.

(Time Tunnel music up here.)

October 3, 1995
Does anyone remember that date?

It was the day the jury came back with the verdict in the O.J. Simpson trial.

I watched the verdict on TV at work, with literally half the population of the U.S. (according to Wiki).

The media played up that there was “concern” that there might be rioting in the city over the verdict. The details are now fuzzy in my head, but I think I decided it was as good of a reason as any to go out to Long Island to see my mom.

I think I left work a little early, and I walked down to Penn Station. Which meant that to get to my train I was going down the main, big staircase at 7th avenue and 33rd street. It was a little early for rush hour, but hundreds and hundreds of people were already streaming down those steps.

And that’s when it happened.

Going down the stairs I was behind a man in his sixties, grey hair, wearing a red plaid chub jacket and grey pants. Midway down I saw a basic number 10 envelope fall out of his back pocket. I picked it up and taped him on the shoulder.

He turned around and looked at me, then looked down at the envelope.

“Oh my God,” he said. “Thank you for returning that to me. I can’t lose that.”

It’s not what he said, but the way he said it. There was sheer terror and exaggerated relief in his eyes at the same time.

We were stopped for a nanosecond on the steps as the crush of commuters flowed around us. The energy between us was so strange, so odd: as I handed the envelope to him I felt that like I was literally handing his life back to him.

I really can’t imagine what was in the envelope. It wasn’t flat, it felt like it had several pages in it. It crossed my mind that if it was so important, what was it doing in his back pocket?

It was the briefest of encounters, but it has haunted me a bit since then. It may be that the action of getting that envelope back into that man’s hands is the single most significant thing I will ever do on this earth. That’s okay with me.


scribbler50 said...

Those moments really are magical aren't they, M.A., and "haunting" in your case because you haven't a clue as to what exactly you returned to the guy. Also, the feeling of gratitude you must've received because if you hadn't noticed the fallen parcel the man would've continued on, you're not part of that synchronicity, and the next finder never would've located the guy. I call it "meant to be!"

I'm always blown away by cab drivers who find something left behind of significant value, from jewels to money to in one instance a Stradivarius violin, and they find the owner and turn the treasure in. Us at our best!

(Hey, thank you very much for the link.)

M.A.Peel said...

Hi Scrib. Yes, I've thought about if I hadn't seen it fall. There was such a stampede of people, it would have been easy to miss. Maybe I should right a screenplay for this!

scribbler50 said...

Write it, M.A.!
That's a great opening scene you've described already, you've literally "hit the ground running" with the panicked masses pouring into Penn Station! And maybe you don't catch up to the guy because you're jostled by the crowd when you bend down to pick up the envelope, the guy disappears in that moment, and you're forced to open the envelope which leads to...