• Marilyn Gardner Woods

Near Misses

Updated: Feb 9

Ordinarily the twilight hour is precious to me. Not too long ago, however, the magic time between sunset and dusk presented as nerve racking. Twilight can be a treacherous time to drive, especially when you’re heading to an unfamiliar destination. Joggers, strollers, dogs pop out of the darkness; when I lived in the country it was often a lone coyote.


With an elevated level of caution, I took off south on Fourth toward the Gaslamp District heading for what was to be my first ever Persian food dining experience, take-out. Three friends were coming for dinner which we would take outside to my terrace and eat observing Covid precautions.


No problem locating the brightly lit Bandar Restaurant; finding a parking spot, a different story. My hands clenched the steering wheel as I drove past, slowly. Circling two full blocks, I came back to Fourth and turned left, the restaurant again in sight.


Unfortunately, the pedestrian in the crosswalk was not.


The minute my lights flashed in his face, I slammed on my brakes. The middle-aged guy in a business suit raised his hand upright, palm facing me which I recognized as a mudra gesture of fearlessness denoting reassurance and safety. Then again, he could have been signaling me to ‘f**kin’ stop bitch.’ I chose option one and mouthed “so sorry.”



My heart pounded like a marching band in my chest as I proceeded once more on my parking space quest. In a split second, my entire rear view glared with neon lights—fluorescent reds, electric blues and blinding whites—accompanied by a penetrating siren sound.


Certain the policeman could not have me in mind, I slowed to let him pass.

The squad car followed close.

I stopped.

He did have me in mind.


It was only after the cop had left me with a placating, “We need to be safe, Mrs. Woods” and a ticket for one of my two violations—an illegal left turn and crossing in front of a pedestrian—that I found a spot on a dark side street. My shaky hands turned off the ignition. I crumpled.


I could have killed that guy pounded over and over in my head.


What began as a near life-changing event for both me and the poor soul making his way across the twilight darkened intersection soon turned into a pleasurable evening, beginning the moment my friends smiling faces appeared.


Still shaken, I related my traffic incident to my masked guests whose support of loving words, not hugs, comforted me. Soon we were laughing, conversing, and enjoying our happy hour. Being with friends, close friends, is such a gift in these times of pandemic. To say nothing of the sweet, sour, and many-spiced flavors of the Kashk-O Bademjan, Dolmeh, Shirazi Salad, and Albalu Polo.


As I put the last plate in the dishwasher, I smiled half-heartedly thinking of how my first foray into Persian food had turned out to be extraordinarily yummy and also an expensive affair when I factor in the cost of the fine.


I’ll laugh about it someday.


Not this night. As I crawled into bed, I kept seeing the face of the startled man in the crosswalk. The close call of what could have been a fatal accident brought tears to my eyes and dampened my pillow.


They say things happen in threes…


I woke thinking about the darkened intersection and the guy trying to cross. It was only when I got to my daughter’s house a few hours later that things looked up. Dinner with her and my son-in-law coupled with a Kansas City Chiefs win to put them in the Super Bowl did the trick. I’m a huge Patrick Mahomes fan; it’s that Texas Tech Red Raider thing!



While I slept in my cushy and comfortably designated room at their house in Valley Center, the rain and winds in San Diego mounted in intensity.


About noon the next day, I took a short detour to Highway 76 to look once again at the mountains in Pauma Valley, where I once lived; they were covered with snow. Vince Gill's "Forever in Mind" began as I turned toward San Diego full of sweet memories from my life in the country.




Home by two to a disruptive scene around my house, the aftermath of the storm.


I surveyed the damage; broken limbs were strewn around, palm fronds had cork-screwed into the air and onto unexpected locations, overturned cushions from my terrace were randomly scattered.


As I entered the back garden, I halted. In the very spot where I had gathered with my friends two nights earlier, I saw the ten-foot patio umbrella from my second-floor balcony which had apparently torpedoed itself downward with deadly force. An explosion of decomposed granite blast outward from the point where the head of the shaft landed.


The thumping of my heart accelerated as I moved closer. The Velcro-ed straps I had firmly attached when I closed the umbrella after watching the weather report two nights before were busted open.


Leaving the hurled and fallen weapon where it landed, I walked among the ruins of my outdoor spaces before going inside, grateful no one had been in the path of the umbrella as it jettisoned from the balcony.


One hour later, as the tumultuous winds escalated, I retreated to the quiet of my office. I tried to concentrate on e-mails but continually found myself fearful for the many tall eucalyptus trees that swayed in erratic motion in the canyon below, their silvery green leaves shimmering. The howling noise of the winds, which I later learned had been clocked at 45-65 mph near me, so strong that the county had shut down its Covid-19 vaccine center at Petco Park, intensified.


Suddenly, a powerful boom, like a sonic blast, cracked into the air, louder than the relentless noise of the winds. I gripped the edge of the desk. Outside, before me the top half of the sixty-foot palm, no more than thirty feet from my window, flew with rocket-force into the air toward the First Street Bridge before nose-diving onto the path below the olive trees in the canyon just beyond my terrace. The trajectory of the flying palm, the exact opposite direction of the planes on approach to San Diego International Airport. It landed amid the eucalyptus and olive trees, crushing succulents and flowers; it landed on the path my family and I walk regularly to the bottom of the canyon.


It was at this point in the turbulent seventy-two hours of my life that I backed out of my office, turned and walked slowly into the living room. The close call with the pedestrian, the weapon-like umbrella landing where friends sit sometimes, the palm tree fallen where nobody walked—narrow escapes careened in my mind.


In spite of the wind outside, I could hear my heart beating. In my mind, it sounded like the gentle rain falling on one of those Texas hill country tin roofs I love so much. Funny, how I always go back to Texas for comfort.


The three near misses whirled in my mind.

Random, gauzy streaks of chance that left

the path vacant,

the terrace empty of friends,

the pedestrian unharmed

swirled in my memory.


Thank you God I uttered to myself as I put my hand where my grateful heart still pulsed.


Any panic in your pandemic besides the usual???




I don’t seem to know how to comment on your blog so I’m just emailing. Wow. What a story! I totally was there with your almost hitting that guy. I’ve never come that close, but there have been times that somebody came out of the gloom at night and I saw him later than I would have liked. Thing is - it kinda makes me a little pissed at the person. In my case, it’s always been at night, and the pedestrian has been in very dark clothing. I always feel like anyone who walks around at night, in such clothing, needs to be very cognizant and extra careful, which people aren’t. And all the tree missiles! I lost a limb too, and I was so glad that I decided after dark, when it was so crazy, to refuse to let out JJ - it would have killed her. Hang on my friend! Intense life happenings do make for good stories by good writers - which you are!

Courtney



Good morning sweet gal!

Really enjoyed your colorful, emotional, and detailed description of your “3 events” of late. Keep up the beautiful work - you are a treasure!

Love,

Denver


So great Marilyn, you could write mysteries also!!! I felt like I was right there!! Of course I will be cheering along with you on Sunday! We are huge Chiefs fans having raised our children in Kansas City and had season tickets for years! Scared for Sunday - our offense is superior but defense has some real problems! ❤️JS


God is Good 💝

Love you. Jodi T. Anthony Live! Laugh! Love!


Oh Marilyn, what a frightening 48 hours! So thankful you and no one else was injured!! God is good! And I will be cheering for Patrick on Super Bowl Sunday too, but I must admit, I was cheering for the Buffalo Bills a couple of weeks ago!! This was the first time in 25 years the Bills have made it to the playoffs, so we were hopeful, but our quarterback is young so we hope they will return next year to the playoffs - and hopefully on to the Super Bowl!!

Shirley in Buffalo


Still capturing those moments, my writer friend. Always glad to find resolution with happy endings! And I'm also glad, of course, that Texas memories bring you comfort!

Stay safe --

Chris


Whew!!! Very eventful. Just got my first COVID shot, so on my way to health and prosperity.S.Wehr

I am glad you are OK.

Here is a little zydeco to get you moving and ready for fat tuesday 2021!

Bess

https://youtu.be/kZ8iWgWwqG4



so sorry,,,,I had a similar experience in the dark trying to finally get into Petco...’there for the grace of God.......MP


Wow! Just read your blog. Those kinds of experiences bring it all into focus ❤️🤗Sue C.


Marilyn, there must be a 1000 books waiting to be written by you. I was step for step with you on this piece! I had a similar pedestrian close call aside from the fact it was in the middle of the day. The sun was hitting my windshield in such a way it caused a complete whiteout on about a 1/4 of my direct viewing. I did not see the two girls walking home from high school in the cross walk. Fortunately, Steve was with me. As I heard “HONEY, WATCH OUT !” Obviously the rest is history. It really has stayed with me all these years later. You really brought the intensity of the impact (thank God there wasn’t) back to me.

I expect your fine will be hefty but the alternative would have been immeasurable! A

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