This is about the time I tried to climb a tree.
In a car.
I did not succeed.
I walked away (literally). Neither the car nor the tree were very appreciative.
Fayette, Alabama, early 90s. I was minding my own business when…
Oh. OK. Starting over…
Fayette, Alabama, early 90s. I wasn’t paying attention.
(How was that?)
I was making the little run from my house to the office – something I did every day at least twice a day. In between one neighborhood and another was a stretch of about half a mile that was sort of woodsy and country.
And there was this little ditch.
I’d never noticed it before. But you can be sure I never ignored it again after this day. The ditch was just wide enough for my right tires to slip right in. And slip they did.
What I’m describing to you happened at about 30 miles per hour in a matter of seconds. The car slipped off the road and the wheels slipped into a ditch as if I were in an oversized slot car game.
I should probably point out here that while my car, like most cars, had two foot pedals, I always figured the big one was mostly for decoration. So like most oops-the-road situations, I didn’t hit the brakes – I just tried to wheel my way back out of the ditch.
That wasn’t happening.
What was happening was the sudden appearance of this massive oak tree. Y’all, it just jumped out of nowhere. It saw me coming and the acorns went to work. Next thing I knew the ditch forced me to introduce myself to the tree. I swear I had nothing to do with it.
That what I explained to the insurance company anyway. They sorta looked at me like I left my brain back at the oak tree.
Anyway, rewinding… still moving along about 25 mph, I kept trying to wheel my way out of my slot-shaped ditch. The thought didn’t occur to me – not once – to hit the brakes. So yes, I wound up ramming my car into the tree and actually fender-climbing it a bit.
Nothing hurt but my pride. Well, and the car, which I never drove again.
This real-life experience has become a metaphor for me for what can often happen in life. I’ve seen it happen to people’s careers. Their influence. Their personal lives at whatever level. Their relationships. Somewhere, somehow, without wanting to, they hit the ditch. And they’re stuck, and powerless, and a bit wrecked or hurt, and they’re halfway up a tree and without help, they ain’t going nowhere.
Yes, I’ve seen it happen to me.
Nobody sets out to wreck their lives or loves by hitting the ditch. But in a state of mass humanization, it can happen – easily – to the best of us. With a bit of a rewind and post-car-mortem, maybe there are a few things we can learn about that experience. [click to continue…]