Mack Williams: What if?
I had another piece prepared; but life intervened (as it can, and does).
I got off the phone with the alterationist who had finished shortening my new pants a couple of inches (the late Rev. Dean Lingle, fellow East Rowan Band Member, didn’t say that I reminded him of the late Peter Lorre for nothing).
These pants are part of a suit which I bought to wear at the up-coming wedding of my daughter Rachel and her fiance’ Richard the first week in December.
The alterationist said to try to pick them up before her lunch time.
I dashed off in my little Alero (“dashing” might be inflating).
I was headed toward a railroad crossing, when red lights started flashing (not the police; they’re red and blue). These lights were adjacent the railroad crossing arms in front of me; and I dashed across the tracks, seeing the traffic arms beginning to lower in my rear view mirror.
Partway down that street, I heard train tonnage rumbling by in the distance! It wasn’t until I reached the end of the street and stopped at another stop sign (which wasn’t flashing) and looked both ways,that I realized how terribly wrong things could have gone back there!
I was just trying to get to the alteration shop before the lady’s lunch break, and not implying that since my name is “Mack,” I was trying to emulate Mack Sennet’s “Keystone Cops” of the 1912-1917, in which robbers and police made it across the tracks within a “hair’s breadth” of the steam engine!
It occurred to me that my old car could have “died” on the rails, although I did have a lot of momentum going, something which my son Jeremy always tells me to make sure of when crossing railroad tracks, because if the motor dies, the motion part of the law of inertia may carry you across (but he didn’t advise it when the signal lights begin flashing). The crossing arms could have even unexpectedly and quickly slipped down, trapping me!
The alterationist and I had a pleasant conversation about the past businesses where she had learned her trade, a conversation
which would not have occurred if I were lying dead on the tracks within twisted steel.
I stopped by my late wife’s mother’s and went to the grocery store for her, which also would not have occurred if I were lying dead on the tracks within twisted steel.
I made my December rent payment, discussing Thanksgiving and singing “Come Ye Thankful People Come” for the sweet lady in charge of the Company’s rental property. This too, would not have occurred if I were lying dead on the tracks within twisted steel. But I like to imagine that I might have managed to croak out a few sung notes before passing on. H-ll, tenors in Lucia di Lammermoor manage to sing the whole aria “Tu che a Dio spiegasti l’ali” after having seemingly run themselves through with a “pig sticker”(but only “seemingly”).
It was a strange feeling, like what if my life had actually ended back there at the tracks, and I were now continuing in some John Newland, “One Step Beyond,” parallel universe!
Yes, if there had been the slightest slip up on that railroad crossing, I might now be doing “tablet time”( not medicine, but granite marker).
Coming from railroaders (father, maternal grandfather, and uncles), I should have known better! So I’ll repeat that old saw at these frantic Thanksgiving and Christmas times (although true Christmas isn’t frantic, but eternally patient):”Stop,Look, and Listen!” Paraphrase: “But the greatest of these is ‘Stop!’ “
Most importantly, in my “Jimmy Stewart-George Bailey reverie ,” I would have missed walking my daughter Rachel down the aisle at her wedding.
And as a matter of fact, I’m singing “Sunrise, Sunset” at the wedding, the last line being:”One season following another, laden with happiness and tears.”