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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Where I Usually Turn Left.

MULDER: Do you remember the first time you foresaw someone's death?
What happened in 1959?

Buddy Holly's plane crashed.

You prognosticated Buddy Holly's death?

Oh, God, no. Why would I want to do that? But I did have a ticket to see him perform the next night. Actually, I was a bigger fan of the Big Bopper than Buddy Holly. "Chantilly Lace," that was the song.

I'm not following.

There's... the Big Bopper was not supposed to be on the plane with Buddy Holly. He won the seat from somebody else by flipping a coin for it.

I'm still not following.

Imagine all the things that had to occur, not only in his life, but in everybody else's, to arrange it so on that particular night, the Big Bopper would be in a position to live or die depending on a flipping coin. I became so obsessed with that idea that I gradually became capable of seeing the specifics of everybody's death.

Well, Mister Bruckman, I'm not one who readily believes in that kind of thing and if I was, I still wouldn't believe that story.

I know it sounds crazy, but I swear it's true. I was a bigger fan of the Big Bopper than Buddy Holly.


This is my account of the morning of June 29th, 2010. In my humble opinion, it was not just a matter of chance.

As previously mentioned, I do not have my drivers’ license yet but am in the process of acquiring it. I need the practice where and when I can.

On Monday night, I approached my mother about getting in some driving time in the morning, while she and her car had the day off from work.

“Get up early and we’ll go out. Your father and I have to be out of the house to go to Sandgate at 11:30” she said.

Sounds fine. I accepted the offer. I’ll get up early and go for a drive. My plan for the morning was to get up, sneak in a screening of the Aussie crime flick Animal Kingdom before work, then, you know, work.

Tuesday morning, I sleep in.

I quickly got up, showered, shaved, dressed, ready to go to work. Bugger food, I’ll get a big lunch before work, bugger the movie. Dammit. I wanted to see Animal Kingdom.

I ask Mum if I could compromise on the practice - could I drive the 10 minutes to my work with her riding shotgun, then she could drive home and pick Dad up on the way to Sandgate?

“That’s fine”, she said.We’ll go at 11:20.”

There’s one more thing though, Mum.

“What’s that?”

I have a movie to drop back at the video shop that’s due back today.

“Not a worry. We’ll pull in on the way.”

To get from Mum’s place to the video shop then to work is a simple case of a few turns. Down one long road that leads to a T-junction, right at the T-junction then left onto the main road. In the past when I drive to work, to avoid traffic, I will normally turn left at that T-junction and take the backstreets.

Today I have to turn right.

Consistent with my mother’s typical non-adherence to punctuality, we get out to the car at 11:30.

At 11:30, I discover that the magnetic L-plates I use are not under the seat where I normally keep them.

We spend 2 minutes tossing the car, opening all the doors to find them, are they in the boot, are they in the glove box. We find them on the backseat, overturned and camouflaged against the dark fabric of the seat.

At 11:33, the yellow magnets are appropriately and legally affixed, we’re ready to go. I insert the key into the ignition, and it doesn’t turn. It’s stuck.

“Push it in and turn it.”
I am, I am pushing it in.
“You mustn’t be. Easy, easy. Go easy, you’ll break it.

We swap positions and she sees I’m not kidding. The key won’t turn. I go back inside and get the other key to see if that will work. It doesn’t. Mum is baffled but not panicking. I posit the theory the car has locked down because someone has attempted to break into it. She reaches into the glove box for the instruction manual. She flicks through the book, through “keys” & “locking”. She finds the page headed “ignition”. We work out it’s a problem with the alignment of the tires – if the wheel & tires aren’t straight when you go to start the ignition, it won’t start. We adjust the wheel as we turn the key and it starts.

“Well, we learn something new every day.

Upon recounting this story to people later in the day, they tell me it’s not uncommon. But to mum and me, this is total news.

It’s 11:41 when we finally leave the driveway.

I drive down the long road, pull up to the T-junction where I am to turn right. Mum and Dad have commented that I don’t ease up to lights, that I brake too hard. She reminds me of this one as I pull up to the lights at the T, right indicator flick-flick-flicking.

We’re the only car at the lights.

On the corner to the right, there’s a man standing. We can see him in the corner of our eyes.

At that moment, he drops to the pavement with a THUD and a SMACK and lays still.

Oh my god.

The light goes green. I turn right. But instead of continuing on to the main road, I quickly pull into the car park of the local vet. We jump out and run across the road.

He’s lying on his back. He has a short clipped haircut and fiery tattoo down his arm. He looks like he’s stumbled out of the nearby caravan park that's ironically named 'Alpha' Accommodation. I check him for a pulse. He’s still breathing. I call triple 0.

At some point, his eyes snap open, he gulps in air, sits bolt upright like he’s been shocked with something, says he’s aww-rye. No, you’re not mate, you need to lie down, you’ve had a fall. He sits up, then after moments of lucid mumbling, starts tipping over again. The emergency phone lady asks me if he has a history of heart problems. I don’t know.

Finally some cars pass by. Many cars pass by. One turns the corner and drives by. The next one turns the corner and parks. A larger man gets out and helps. The triple 0 lady tells us to keep him lying down on his side, but we can’t convince him to. Instead, he stands up. The larger man helps him up but holds him, propping him there. It looks darkly comical, like Weekend at Junkies. He identifies that he’s probably taken something. The man with the tattoo admits in a slur hair-oh-in and the larger man says we can’t lie him down. I say this to the triple 0 lady and I think she agrees. She tells me to keep the “lady” away from him in case he turns violent.

Eventually the ambulance comes blaring up the road we would have turned into. They pull up; the paramedics take to him, ask us questions and say thanks for our help. Mum and I thank the man for stopping to help when others wouldn’t. He thanks us for the same. The man with the tattoo seems to be okay, now they’re there.

As we walk back to the car, a police car pulls up. The cops get out and assist the paramedics. But mum and I are already in the car.

We continue on to the video shop then work.

It was now past 12.


Mum and I discussed it in the car - the number of coincidences, the delays, the reasons unbeknownst to us behind little moments and decisions that led to us being at that intersection turning right at that particular moment. If we had been turning left, we wouldn’t have been able to help as there was nowhere for us to pull over on that side of the road. If that freak moment of (to us) a rare car malfunction had happened. If I hadn’t slept in. If for some reason the L-plates stayed where I had left them.

Mum said it was “divine intervention”. Feel free to imagine my mother and me paraphrasing the final third of Pulp Fiction, sans Marvin in the car. I wouldn’t take Jules’ position but I wouldn’t take Vincent’s either - I don’t know about divine, but it certainly felt to me that there was a purpose to it all. Maybe it's my post-Lost way of thinking about reason and purpose without having to put the name of a deity to it. It's my agnosticism rather than my parents' Catholicism.

Like I said at the start, taking Paul Thomas Anderson’s lines of verbal prose from Magnolia spoken in Ricky Jay’s deadpan, in the humble of opinion of this writer, this was not just a matter of chance.

Because here’s the kicker: after work, I decided to go to an evening screening of Animal Kingdom.

In the opening seconds of the film, paramedics rush to the rescue of a person suffering from a heroin overdose.

Oh no. These strange things happen all the time.


Dan Beeston said...

Of course, you'll never know just how close you were to having a similar experience each and every time that it almost occurred.

Girl Clumsy said...

Still chance, to my mind. The universe is just weird, is all. With so many billions of lives intersecting, should we be so surprised when every so often the overlap is perfect, or perfectly timed?

Anonymous said...

5 stars for mentioning Ricky Jay in a post. Love that guy. #missingthepoint