Friday, 26 June 2009
The year, 1988. Another bright and beautiful clear day in San Diego. I'm driving home from church, Horizon Christian Fellowship in San Diego County, located about 10 miles north of the city. My apartment was located on Coronado Island, a beautiful and charming beach town, and highly frequented vacation destination.
Historic Hotel Del Coronado was the setting for the movie classic 'Some like it Hot'. The Wizard of Oz was written in an old Victorian house 'on' Coronado. Popcorn guru Orville Redinbocker also lived on Coronado, along with thousands of locals and military families stationed at the North Island Naval base. It's just a really cool place to live if you are going to live in San Diego.
Lest I forget, there's also a training base for the hunky-dunk Navy Seals out on the 'Silver Strand', a 10 mile strip of glorious soft white sandy beach and highway which connect the 'island' to lower San Diego. Getting to the part about Micheal Jackson. Patience.
Both my sisters were married to military men and took off-base housing on Coronado. And so it was that I wound up there. Come to Coronado. I was actually married in a yard on an alley in Coronado, but that's another eyebrow raising story.
Besides the Silver Strand, the only other way to drive onto the island, and the best road in from the city, would be the The Coronado Bridge. Towering some 200 feet over the San Diego Bay, and running over 11,000 feet long, the Coronado bridge is the only deemed 'scenic' bridge in the country, and sadly third in the USA for free jumpers. That doesn't sound right.
Anyway. it's really something to see, and a bit of a thrill to drive over. No bike or pedestrian lanes. Just 4 lanes, 2 in each direction, with a relatively low side and amazing views.
Now normally, I would be totally enjoying the breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and Coronado, however on this particular crossing, I was becoming more uneasy. The traffic over the bridge is normally pretty heavy and going at a good clip. I am about half way up, and quickly approaching the peak. Were it not for the upward pitch of the road which felt as if it required more power than usual to climb, I might be less inclined (no pun intended) to feel this growing trepidation.
"The way you make me feel(the way you make me feel.
You really turn me on(you really turn me on)
You knock me off of my feet(you knock me off of My feet)
My lonely days are gone (my lonely days are gone)
Ah...distraction! I liked the song and reached over to turn it up, careful to avoid making eye contact with the menacing little orange light staring up from my dashboard.
"Gawn, Girl! Wooo-Heee!"
Seconds passed and unable to deny it any longer, I glanced at the gauge, which was now WAY past 'E'. I got that familiar sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Foolishly believing I could make those last 15 miles with far less than a quarter tank, I had willfully placed myself in a bad situation. The 'light' had appeared several miles back, and as I flew up the bridge, I felt my hands tighten around the steering wheel and every muscle in my body tense up.
My sister Elena, knowing something about my predicament was a few cars back, and I hoped that she was praying with me as I chanted my usual "It's going to be OK, dear God please, right? It's gonna be OK..." The music plays on, drowning out some of my anxiety.
Hey, it happens, but at that time, maybe more crap of this nature happened to me than anyone else I knew of. You see, I had this saying "I know my tank" and was quite cocky and stupid about it. A Jackass. Truth is, I rarely had any extra money, and while I still had a quarter of a tank, did not see gas as a top priority.
Twenty years later, I occasionally allow my tank to run dangerously low, putting myself and others, as well as my engine at risk, but back in my 20s I had very little sense for what was important and wise and it was more of a habitual thing. I have to admit that I also seemed to get a thrill out of living that way, you know, by the seat of my pants... by the power of prayer... trusting God to get me through situations which could best be avoided with a little common sense in action. Wisdom comes at a great price for some. OK, I must add that in addition to being a jackass, I was also full of pride and quite defensive about the subject.
So here I am, faced with an imminent and probable scenerio: stalling out and then rolling down the bridge backward, or at least into the car behind me.
I wondered if the breaks would even work without the engine running not that I would have to find out, right? Up until this very moment, I truly thought I might make it. Now, as the little engine that thought it could began to sputter and choke, I knew it was not going to be OK. And then it happened. My engine stalled and I slowed to a near stop just as I crested the peak. Yes, the last few feet to the top with the red light on, and Micheal Jackson urging me on, It was surreal. Alone in a car with no gas, at the top of this bridge, with nothing else to do but to roll down! A skateboarder's dream. Just me and Micheal Jackson's "Whoo-heees" and the cool breeze rushing in.
I'd like to say that I was able to control my vehicle, but the initial slow coast quickly gained momentum until I was flying down the other side at about 60 MPH towards the toll booth. There was that familiar thrill as I applied pressure to the brakes, trying to steer, and encountering a loss of power. It felt more like a go cart with more weight behind it. Something out of the Little Rascals. All I needed was a boxing glove on extenders to put out the window as I passed other cars. The brakes and steering were at best stiff and difficult to engage. I was barreling along, hoping the car in front of me would not stop short, dear God, and all the while the music is playing.
"Gawn, Girl! Wooo Hee!!" As if Micheal Jackson himself were riding in the passenger seat,I tell ya! Thriller.
Scary, yes but less intense because of Micheals urging me on. Sure enough, I was somehow able to pull her over to the side and gave thanks as my sister pulled up behind me. Phew. Made it. Another hairy moment which could have been avoided.
My sister and are happy to be able to recall this event with humor. It might not have ended so happily.
In the midst driving through of a terrible electrical storm yesterday, I phoned a close friend, who told me that until God calls me home, I am indestructible. I took comfort in those words. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for thou are with me". God's words are even MORE powerful and bring peace in the storms of life, even if they are unto death. Oi vey. On that note, I hope Micheal Jackson called out to God, and that he is home with Jesus and dancing with the stars. Amen.