Jim’s white knuckles gripped the steering wheel. “Grrrr, that was stupid. Why did I take this exit? Now I’m going to be late.” He had promised Liz that he would be home early to relieve her. She wanted to go to a Ladies’ Night Out at the church. She had been cooped up with three sick children for two weeks as the flu passed, like an Olympic torch, from one family member to the next. Tonight, she was getting out with the ladies, no matter what.
Jim’s mind was racing. He had so much to do at home, and tomorrow he had to hire a new secretary and meet with the client to discuss the project he has worked on for the past six months.
He was so deep in thought that he exited the freeway two exits early. It would have to be at West Road, the busiest intersection in this part of the city during Houston’s insane rush hour. Now he would have to wait through two lights to get back onto the highway where he had been five minutes before.
Jim sometimes found himself so lost in thought that he lost track of his driving. He would almost swear a voice told him to exit. Now, thanks to him, Liz is going to be late for her ladies’ meeting, and he will probably never hear the end of it; not that she’s unpleasant or anything, she’s just tired and irritable, and Jim wanted to give her a night away from sick kids. How will he ever explain this?
He had to sit through the light at the busy intersection several times before he had his chance to pull under the red light and ignore the panhandler, holding a sign, next to his idling car. When the light turned green, he merged in the left lane to the on-ramp.
This is one of the few positive things about Houston traffic. Even as slow as the packed roads can get sometimes, most drivers are reasonably polite. He had been in rush hour traffic in several large American cities where people would run over you to cut in line. Most Houstonians will slow down and let you in somewhere.
At least now, he wouldn’t be behind the enormous log truck he had been following. Jim hated those things. He grew up around them, and they always seemed to slow traffic on the little one-lane country roads around the city. It was especially aggravating to get stuck behind them in traffic. And the little blue Chevy behind him stayed so close to his bumper he feared getting rear-ended.
Jim fought his way across traffic to the center lane. Several men were standing in the road ahead, waving traffic around a tragic accident. “Oh, now what? This is all I need. An accident. How will I ever get home in time?” The police had arrived only a minute or two before. They were bringing all three busy lanes down into one lane on the far left. At least traffic was moving, even if it was at a crawl.
It took him fifteen minutes to reach the crash. The ambulance had just pulled up when he got close enough to view the scene. “Stupid bottle-neckers. If you would go, traffic would move faster.” He wanted to shake his fist at the cars crawling in front of him whose drivers were gawking at the carnage on the far shoulder of the road. Two bodies were lying along the highway in the grass. The EMS people were moving stretchers over to remove them. The bloody driver’s door had been wrenched open. Nobody could have survived this. The car had been crushed.
Jim took a deep breath. He heard the catch in his own throat when he saw the fallen logs on top of the little blue Chevy. The shifting load penetrated the windshield of the car that had been tailgating Jim only moments before. If he had not left the freeway when he did, his car would have been sitting under those logs, and he would have been lying on the side of the road.
Traffic had to keep moving, or Jim would have stopped the car and cried. He couldn’t help but wonder if maybe God wasn’t involved. Did his accidentally leaving the freeway early keep him from dying? Jim spent the rest of the drive home, contemplating that very question.