“Aw, Man…Just What I Need!”

12 Jul

People who encourage other people to write a blog claim it can be therapeutic. Normally, I haven’t treated this space as such…at least, not primarily.

Maybe that changes with this post. It’s not funny and it has only a little to do with voiceovers, so if you’re looking for a laugh, you might want to skip this one.

I had gotten to the end of a full day, most of it productive, but a full one nonetheless. Several different sessions recording voicetracks with other talent, two very welcome last-minute commercials of my own via ISDN. With that last one, I was at the right place at the right time (actually, it wasn’t just luck… I was one of two voices being considered when the availability inquiry first came in, so at least someone liked my demo enough to put me on the short shortlist).

That offset some considerable frustration, knowing as soon as the session was finished, I’d have to make a hurried cross-town drive to deliver a replacement CD for a job I had, frankly, botched a week earlier. The client was gracious about it, even before I offered his next session free of charge to make amends. It was just five minutes to closing at the office when I delivered the goods and finally decided I could take time for breakfast/lunch/dinner…whatever. I hadn’t stopped for any meals all day, and I had more editing to do when I got home. Several auditions would have to be blown off for lack of time.

Driving back across town, nothing sufficiently appetizing presented itself. But before long, I remembered a cafeteria the family always has to bypass because it doesn’t have anything my young son will eat. Destination finally selected, I headed down the highway.

For whatever reason…maybe I was pre-occupied with the events of the day…I missed my exit, and had to go to the next one a mile or so down the road in order to turn around. As I veered up the ramp I remember thinking, “Man, I could have been sitting down to dinner by now.”

Coming down the curve of the opposite ramp I rounded the grassy embankment and was startled to see…a stalled line of vehicles!

“Aw, man…just what I need!”   I actually said it out loud.

That’s when I saw the guy sprawled on the pavement in the middle lane.

Several cars and trucks were forming a barrier behind him. Several drivers were already gathered around, looking for a way to help. A guy in the big white pickup truck ahead of me was honking his horn, irritated that the person in the little car ahead of him was holding up our impromptu caravan.

There was obviously nothing anyone could do until emergency vehicles arrived. In fact, I had no idea how bad things really were…no blood, no body parts, not even a set of skid marks. Just the form visible on the pavement, his legs pointing back toward us out of the crowd of would-be rescuers…legs clad in blue jeans and ending in black boots, spread in an uncomfortably, unnaturally wide “V”.

My “…Just what I need!” moment had instantly evaporated. I couldn’t even put the words together right as I heard myself try to mumble, “Well I guess someone has more pressing troubles than me…”.

Within a few more minutes, one of the volunteers was able to wave our little parade around the scene, and for the first time I noticed at least half a dozen vehicles…and two motorcycles…on either side of the three lanes. One car had its front smashed in, evidently from hitting the median wall. One of the bikes was on its side, its headlight sending a tuncated beam into the grassy embankment where it had evidently slid after losing its rider.

We hadn’t started moving a moment too soon. The impatient driver in the pickup ahead of me had been trying to wiggle out of line and around his nemesis blocking the open shoulder…horn blaring every few seconds. He obviously had more important places to be.

And me? Well, I finally got my well-deserved breakfast/lunch/dinner…whatever. But I dined very much pre-occupied with the image of those would-be helpers, huddled around the figure I had only seen as two impossibly spread, blue-jean clad legs. “At least, ” I thought, “I can have my delayed meal without needing a tube.” And later there were thoughts of how many weeks of pain the rider would endure before being able to have a meal such as I was enjoying.

Also in my head was the internal heckler: “…and YOU’VE had a bad day? Poor baby!”

At home now. Several hours past. Checking the local news station on the internet for anything about what I saw. Finally, after the 10pm hour was the briefest of reports.

I had been looking at a dead man.

Some poor guy had mis-merged his motorcycle just a minute or two before I showed up on that entrance ramp…and collided with one or more oncoming vehicles at full speed. He was my opposite number…definitely not at the right place at the right time, like me.

Not that it’s “all about me”. It’s just that mine is the only vantage point I can speak from at the moment. But I’m a bit ashamed at my lack of patience with the world…that so often I do make it “all about me”, and get very irritated when something happens that is just not “what I need.”

Five hours after the accident (as i edit this) two of the three highway lanes are only now re-opening at that entrance ramp where I had been waved through. And I’m sure that, repeatedly, as driver after driver approached the slowdown area there were the spoken or unspoken gripes from poor, inconvenienced souls:

“Aw man…just what I need!”

— over and out —

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5 Responses to ““Aw, Man…Just What I Need!””

  1. James Clamp July 20, 2008 at 9:12 am #

    Hey Rowell,

    This is such an important piece. Thank you for the posting. It should be mandatory for everyone to read at least once a year. A true story once again reiterating that great proverb – “i cried when i had no shoes, then i saw a man with no feet”. Perspective is everything.

    I’m going to check out your other articles now (it was a link from Bob Souer that sent me here initially).

    James

  2. Ed Helvey - The Virginia Sound Man July 20, 2008 at 9:39 am #

    Thanks for this, Rowell.

    In our sped-up, crazy-busy society – it’s too easy to overlook reality. I was just on the phone with a friend who was all upset because he’s driving through NYC on his way to meet someone for brunch on his way to a New England vacation. Today is the NYC Marathon and so he hit a wall of traffic on 10th Ave. and was having a difficult time maneuvering to get thru the traffic jam – he still had more then a half hour to get to his destination – about 20 blocks from where he was at. And, he had a similar reaction to your first reaction and to the guy in the pick-up truck. Meanwhile, I opened an e-mail from a very long-time, dear friend and client of mine during a pause in the conversation. This friend’s message said that hospice had just delivered a bed and wheelchair to him. He said his traveling days are over (he’s a world famous author and motivational speaker and just came back from his last around the world speaking tour about two months ago). Then he said, “Life gets more tremendous each day.” Two different people in two very different “traumatic” situations with two VERY different attitudes.

    So putting things in perspective – I think my first friend was overreacting a lot – even if he ends up being a few minutes late – it’s not the “end of his world.” And for my other friend, he is facing the “end of his world,” yet, he STILL sees the positive in all aspects of life. Your experience and these two stories should be a lesson to all of us. I’m trying very hard to deal with situations like you ultimately did – and use my dying friend as a role model for how I should handle all of life’s challenges and situations.

    Have a grand day!

    Enthusiastically,
    Ed Helvey
    The Virginia Sound Man

  3. Rowell July 20, 2008 at 11:28 am #

    thank you, james

    sometimes it’s a tough call deciding to write something like this. i’m flattered it had the desired effect (and it did help me as therapy in the process). thank you as well for following the link from bob’s blog. if it werent’t for bob i wouldn’t even have a blog…and if it weren’t for him PLUGGING my blog now and then, i’m sure i wouldn’t have more than a few readers!

    thank you, ed

    people like your second friend are a marvel to me. i’m afraid if/when i found myself in that position i would waste what time i had left being bitter. maybe i’ll be proven wrong. it does tie into a post i read recently that encouraged people to read their own resume when depression kicks in. being reminded of all the great things in one’s past can indeed re-enforce a feeling of worth.

    (btw, yours is one of the few voices i’ve missed since leaving the yahoo group. i always found your posts well-reasoned and your experiences fascinating.)

  4. Brian in Charlotte July 20, 2008 at 2:47 pm #

    Such the powerful reminder….it’s good to read something like this about…..oh, let’s say….about every other day!

    Thanks for your good words,

    Brian in Charlotte

  5. Scott Pearson July 21, 2008 at 3:06 pm #

    Talk about deja vu! Last year at this time I watched Nemith Sanders die
    on 40 West right in front of me, a three ton tractor trailer just laid down on his pick-up and crushed him. I haven’t been the same since, so I hear you Rowell.

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