Wednesday, January 23, 2013
The High Priest of I-29
I swear, it was not slippery. It was terribly early in the morning--somewhere around five--I was on I-29, and there was, at best, minimal traffic between Sioux City and Omaha. I wasn't tired. I wasn't seeing things. It wasn't a mirage or a bad dream in the middle of a trip that had begun far too early. I'm a morning person, for heaven's sake. I wasn't then, nor am I now delusional.
But I saw it from a long ways away because the land there is Missouri River flood plain, flat as a granite counter top. I saw it because the funnel of its lights were over the highway instead of out front. Had they been out front I wouldn't have seen them at all as I came up; I would have seen only taillights.
But there, middle of the road stood a pickup, its lights flashing over the ditch. It wasn't off the road, but it wasn't on the road either. The passenger door, which was swung open, was off the road, but the bed extended into the right lane of the interstate. Light spilled from its interior, but I saw no one.
It didn't look crunched. I slowed down somewhat to see if there was another car somewhere in the flat ditch west, but spotted nothing. There didn't appear to be an accident. Like I said, the surface wasn't slippery--if that pickup somehow spun out, it had done its pirouetting almost perfectly, staying out of the ditch and not flipping. What incredible luck. Passengers could have been killed. But I saw no one.
Just down the road, however, someone had stopped. As I passed the truck, I saw him or her running up from a car and toward the truck in the highway. That was reassuring--someone was there to help.
The thing is, I had a plane to catch. Delta doesn't take kindly to a passenger showing up 10 minutes before the flight leaves, so the fact is I would have missed my flight. And I had responsibilities, after all. Once I got to San Antonio, I had to get the rental car and pick up three people from their respective gates, then drive us all up into the Hill Country, almost three hours away, west. There were people counting on me being there.
My goodness, I had devotions that first night. I had responsibilities, and I'm not the kind of person who likes trying to talk airline personnel into dispensing grace. Honestly, I didn't think for a minute that some man or woman behind the counter would buy the idea that I'd stopped for a stranded motorist along I-29, that that's why I'd missed my flight, and that I would be so pleased if they could still get me to Texas by, say mid-afternoon. So I didn't stop.
I didn't stop. But I had cause. I had reasons. Whatever happened didn't look really bad. If there was a crash, I certainly didn't see it, and the truck didn't appear to be smashed. Someone else was ten seconds away. I'm no medic. What could I have done anyway?--just another guy with a cell phone.
So I didn't stop.
That was Friday last, and it stuck with me all day. Today is Wednesday, I'm back home, and I haven't forgotten.
And ever since I think I understand far better than I ever did the Priest and the Levite because they were also the people who lead devotions and take charge easily and greatly. For most of my life, I've thought of them as assholes, but maybe they had a plane to catch. Maybe they were going on some kind of spiritual retreat. Probably they had to read scripture and pray. Hey, after 9-11, you can't catch a break from an airline. I don't doubt for a moment those two had bigger fish to fry. They were the job-creators. They were the people that mattered.
What I'm saying is, it's a more complex story than I've ever thought. I mean, that Priest and that Levite walked on by because they had responsibilities and figured out that undoubtedly someone less busy with the affairs of this world would stop and check on that crumpled man in the ditch beside the road. They had places to go, things to do. They had responsibilities.
Look, Friday morning, early, I just didn't have time to be a the Good Samaritan, you know? If I had, I would have stopped.
I didn't have the time, all right?
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 6:05 AM