Thursday, May 15, 2008

Life Saving

In 1993 I went off to college at Florida State University. I had spent my entire high school career dating a guy who was mean, thoughtless, mildly physically abusive, and wildly emotionally abusive. He was a deadbeat loser and had no business at a university, so I saw my acceptance letter as a ticket out of that relationship (why doesn't an 18 year old think she can just make the decision to end it herself?). Until, on my first night in my dorm, deadbeat loser called to tell me he was following me up to Tallahassee to get a job. My heart sank.

When he got to town, we continued dating and fighting. He continued cheating on me and telling me it was my own fault. He took my money, ate my food, and ruined every opportunity I had to make new friends and get the most out of what should have been an exciting time for me. One night, though, went way beyond the kind of standard mind-fuck he'd been laying on me for four years.

I don't even remember what the fight was about. What I do remember, is that after an hour I knew I was going to die. He was driving my car like a crazy person, because he was a crazy person. He ran red lights, spun out in the middle of intersections with traffic on-coming, sped up divided roads going the wrong way. It wasn't just the driving that made me aware that my time was up. It was the fact that, in a calm and reasoned voice, he told me that he was going to kill me. He realized then that he had no way to do it. I guess using the car put him at too much danger himself. He told me that we were going back to his apartment so he could get his baseball bat.

I'm not sure which is more absurd, the fact that he left me sitting in the car while he ran upstairs to get my murder weapon, or the fact that I obeyed. But there I sat, car running, utterly convinced that this was my night to die. I'd shut down. I was defeated. But that's when everything changed.

A woman from the apartment complex had heard the whole thing. As he disappeared up the stairs, she came to my window and looked me sternly in the face. This was no time for lengthy interventions. She simply locked onto my eyes and said, "Run."

I blinked, confused. "RUN!" She was yelling now.

"But, it's my car."

She would not be disuaded. "Then drive."

I nodded my head and got out of the car, got back in the drivers seat, and drove away. I went all the way home to Orlando that night. I ended up leaving college completely in order to get away from him, and I never did go back and finish.

I have no complaints. I'm alive, I'm married, and my four-week-old son is sleeping in his swing while I write this. All I know is that woman saved me. Not just by getting me out of there that night, but by reminding me that I still had power. I still had a good mind and a good heart and two feet that could carry me away from danger. "Thank you" doesn't seem like enough.

- Jennifer

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Friday morning, May 9th, Jewel-Osco in Woodstock IL

I was doing my shopping with my 2 children, Genevieve is almost 5 and Henry is 2 1/2. We were looking for the on-sale items, feeding our family with healthy foods that are affordable is a little more difficult lately. As we were scoping out the Pirate's Booty - that was on sale! - my daughter realized she was blocking the aisle. "Oh, sorry" she said as she moved aside. The other woman with the cart said thanks and continued on.We continued on with our shopping, only to meet up with the same woman as we were scoping out the on-sale organic meat in the frozen section. "I'm so glad other people shop like me," she said as I was taking out my coupons. "Yeah, even my daughter can recognize sale tags now," I said, rather proudly.
We chatted about finding deals and using coupons, I think both of us enjoying a bit of grown-up talk. Later we met again as she was ahead of us in the check out lane. I noticed lots of baby food in her cart, so I was sure she enjoyed the grown-up talk then, as much as I did. We chatted some more and she left. I finished up and headed out to my car with my bags. As we were walking, this wonderful Mom stopped her car next to me to let me know how pleasant and well-behaved my children are, that I should be proud and how much it meant to her to see that out at the store that day.I thanked her, probably rather profusely, and we wished each other a Happy Mother's Day.

So to the woman at Jewel who noticed that I have nice kids - you made my weekend. Thank You!
Jane Seibert, Harvard, IL

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Summer, 1988, Washington DC, Metro Subway System, Blue Line

I was late for work as usual and found myself running down the steps of the Rosslyn, VA Metro escalator so I might just catch a waiting train heading into DC. This escalator is steep and has hundreds of steps. I’ve run down them before but this time was different. I felt slightly lightheaded as I reached the bottom but was pleased to be able to hop right on a subway car. It was crowded, as usual. As I stood there holding onto a pole waiting for the car to move, I felt the odd sensation of sweat trickling down my brow. And then, suddenly, I realized my eyesight was fading. My eyes were wide open but I could only see grains of light.. I was totally aware (I think). I felt the train start to move and heard the conductor’s voice calling out the name of the next stop. I stood there shocked. It was happening so fast. I couldn’t see anything no matter how many times I blinked. I knew my stop at Farragut West was quickly approaching. Then my stop was called. I moved as if to exit the train even though I was totally blind. It was then that I felt a soft touch on my arm and heard a female voice speak to me. “Dear, is this your stop?”, a woman asked.
I nodded, too overwhelmed to speak. She held my arm and gently eased me out of the packed subway car and onto the station platform. I still couldn’t see anything. She walked me to a bench and sat down with me. She asked if I was alright. All I could muster was “I can’t see.” She told me she was going to get a station attendant and would return in a moment. She came back with the attendant, sat down with me again and lightly held my hand. Just then, I realized my vision was returning. It was gradual, but it was happening. The attendant left, but the woman stayed with me. My sight was fully restored within five minutes or so. The woman said she was so glad for me. Then she left to board another train as this was not her stop. I went to a restroom where I splashed cold water on my head and face. I felt completely normal again. Off to work I went, like any other day.

I don't recall if I thanked the woman that helped me that day.

So, to her, I now say "thank you very much. 20 years later I still remember so clearly your care and kindness."


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Saving My Sanity

Last Friday here in Knoxville, TN, I was calling in my prescription refills to CVS and was surprised to see that my birth control refills had run out. No problem - I hit the button for the pharmacy to get the refill information from my doctor. Alright, small problem: It was Friday and I was hearing, "Your prescription will be ready Monday."

Monday?! My next set of birth control pills should start Sunday. In a mild panicked state I called the doctor's office and left a message on the refill hotline that please please please could you call in the refill today?The next morning of course nothing waiting for me.

The kind hearted pharmacist took pity on me and filled the prescription!

I was grateful, my husband was grateful, and even though my son would love a sibling, trust me, he should be grateful as well!

- Paula

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A Priceless Lesson

I was at a Carolina Panthers NFL game in Charlotte, NC in November of 2007 with my 21 year old daughter. We were also with a large group of family and friends. At halftime, my daughter and I stood in the long line for the ladies room waiting our turn. When a stall finally opened, I ran in and proceeded with the "public bathroom squat." Looking down, I noticed a small wallet lying between my feet and picked it up after I'd finished. I opened the stall door to see if anyone was looking for it, but everyone inside seemed calm and unconcerned. I opened it up and there was a driver's license, a credit card, and over 100 dollars cash in it. What to do? I didn't want to keep it, but the crowds were coming and going and how do you find someone in a huge crowd like that? I could turn it in to lost and found, but the address on the license indicated she was from out of town, would she be able to collect it before the end of the game? Would it be better to try and contact her myself after the game and get it back to her that way? We left the restroom and joined the rest of our crowd, while I explained to them about this wallet I had just found in the stall. Never did I think of keeping it, but my daughter, a broke college student, started thinking of all the ways she could use that extra 100 bucks. Some of the others we were with encouraged me to keep it as well. But as we stood outside the restroom debating what to do about it, my daughter noticed a woman frantically run in the exit door of the restroom, and recognized her from the picture on the drivers license. I didn't hesitate, I also went back in there and asked her if she was looking for her wallet. She explained that it must have fallen out of her jacket pocket and she didn't realize it till she got ready to pay for some snacks. She was so grateful she wanted to give me some of the money for its return, but I wouldn't hear of it. She started crying and just stood there a moment, then finally grabbed me and hugged me really hard and said "Thank you SO much for being honest."

On the ride home from the game, my daughter quietly said to me "mom, you really would have done whatever it took to find her and return that wallet, wouldn't you?" To which I replied, "of course. No matter what happened, that money didn't belong to us, and no one should gain from someone else's misfortune, and I would hope that if the same thing happened to you or to me, that someone would do the same for us."

If nothing else, I hope my daughter learned a lesson that day. That would be worth far more than 100 bucks found on the floor of a bathroom stall!

~ Sherry

Monday, May 5, 2008

Daniel, the Youthful Auto Club Guy? You Rock.

This morning, I went to get in my trusty little Jetta in order to get to work, only to find that the alarm didn't work. Odd. Oh well. I unlocked the door and got in. Key into the ignition, nothing. Completely dead. As in doornail. Luckily, my husband and I are fortunate enough to have two cars at our disposal, so I cranked up the Solara, and took off. Swung back around the block to run back in for my knitting.
The day goes by, quickly, although I start to fail around 4 pm. Five o'clock comes, and I clock out. I go out to the car, the alarm works, and I get in. Tick-tick-tick-tick-tick. The telltale sound of a dead battery. Another dead battery. I call my husband to tell him what's up, then call my auto club begging help. I am told that within the hour someone will rescue me. The hour goes by. Nothing. I call back. Apparently, there is traffic; someone will be there within twenty minutes. Twenty minutes goes by. Then another forty. I am knitting and texting and talking to people on the phone, getting opinions. I call back the auto club. Where is my white knight? Allegedly the computers were down at the shop, so they couldn't get a call out to the driver, but they were finally able to contact him, and he should be there withing ten minutes. Another call beeps in; I don't recognize the number. I assume it's my rescuer, and I hang up with the auto club, ready to give the driver a small piece of my mind. He sounds very friendly on the other end of the line, more so when I mention that I've had a very hard weekend, first I turned forty, then my Jetta dies, now this. He said, "I know you aren't complaining about turning forty. I just turned forty-two, and I look twenty-five." I commiserate that it really is better than the alternative, and that I don't look my age either. We chat a bit, and then I see his van. We hang up.
He gets out of the van, and my first words to him are, "Dude, you are so lying to me if you maintain that you're 42." He really does look 25. He says that he has a 21-year old son, and he's been married for 22 years. Man alive. I tell him that he is remarkably well preserved. He says, "I don't let things stress me, you gotta just smile and laugh it off. Stress will kill you." Words to live by. He gets my car running, assures me that I will be able to go to the grocery store and then home without a problem, but that I should get the car looked at. He asks how far away my other car is, and I tell him, eighteen minutes -- in the opposite direction. He said that if it was the other way then he'd be happy to come jump it for me. I tell him that if he ever needs any jewelry, to come see me, and I give him my card. He gives me his card, and if I need car help, to please call. Daniel, you made a hard thing not so hard after all.
Thank you.


Polite Conversations in Department Stores

(Written by Mocha Momma and originally published at her site.)


Recently, I ran into two of the private school teachers who asked what I’d been doing in the six years since I had taught with them. I rattled off the litany of accomplishments and what I’d been busy with and we chatted cordially. We were, it needs to be said, in the middle of a department store and I knew it was the kind of polite conversation one has when catching up with acquaintances.

“So, you went over to teach at School X. Hmmm. How was that?”

Her meaning wasn’t even thinly veiled. She wanted to know, “What’s it like working with poor kids? With lots of Black kids? With those heathens and hoodlums who only come to school to fight and wreak havoc?”

It was to be a polite conversation. This really shouldn’t ruin it, but her tone set my blood to boiling in a matter of seconds. So I began the process of heaping burning coals on her head.
“It was great! I loved it there!”

“Yes, but was it different?”

I hated the way she said that word. Different. It crossed my mind to slap her right upside the head.

“Absolutely not. Twelve year olds at one school are the same as twelve year olds at another. They all have the same basic needs and deserve an education. They are all teachable.”


Not the answer she wanted, I assume. Not what she hoped to hear that perhaps I feared for my life on a daily basis and that I’d been caught up in a fight or two and had to put someone in a headlock. That was, of course, true. But she was positively dripping with anticipation of hearing this. She nearly drooled to get The Goods On Poor Public Educators.

“So, you left there. Where are you now?”

I was under the impression, what with all her salivating, that she already knew. She had heard that I pretty much followed those Poor Kids to the high school where I am currently a guidance dean so I offered it up to her minus any fanfare.

“Oh. WOW. You’re there?” There was no way she wanted to hide her incredulous response. She reminded me of the viper news reporters chomping at the bit to get a juicy story.

“Yeah, I love it. It’s great.”

“Well, I hear bad things about that place. What are YOUR thoughts on working there?”

While I am ever conscious of the fact that I represent my school, my district, my city, and my career in education I know that I am to always be positive. It pains me to give anyone ammunition with which to shoot all educators. Yet, here I was in the middle of a store browsing the aisles for sweater sets. My arms were full of a couple of outfits and I had yet to try them on and didn’t want this to ruin my day.

But I didn’t even have to reply to her.

Out of nowhere a woman came around the corner. She had been listening to our conversation on the other side of the dress rack and came to confront the woman to whom I was speaking.

“What’s the matter with you!? Am I to understand that YOU’RE A TEACHER? There is nothing wrong with where she teaches or works or whatever she does there. My daughter went there and just graduated and I was skeptical of sending her there because of PEOPLE LIKE YOU who bash everything in this town when you don’t know anything about it. Why don’t you take your ass over there and see for yourself? My kids have gotten great educations at both those schools this lady just mentioned!”

It occurs to me that, obviously, I am This Lady.

But This Lady, the one who rocked my world by coming to my defense and the defense of all whom I care to represent, was now my favorite person on the planet. Would she balk if I kissed her full on the lips? Would she hate it if I picked her up and twirled her around the store? Could I send her on an all-expenses paid cruise to the Caribbean?

This Lady, me, will forever be grateful for that bitch slap moment when I didn’t have to sigh and explain myself ad nauseam about why I do what I do. The relief I felt after watching this stranger unleash on former colleagues was thoroughly satisfying.

To The Lady who saved me from having to defend my passion for educating ALL STUDENTS: you are my heroine. I didn’t even buy a dress or those sweater sets. You also made me restructure all future “polite conversations.”

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Share a Smile

I go to Starbucks between two and five (on particularly tough weeks) mornings per week. It's true that I am well cheered by my "triple grande nonfat white mocha with whip" and a sausage breakfast sandwich, but on the truly good mornings, it's more than that. The best mornings, for me, are the ones where someone gives me a genuine smile. Some days, it's just another customer I pass, holding the door open for me and saying, "Hi." Other days, it's the cashier thanking me for my purchase, or the barista who tells me to have a good day when I pick up my order. But the point is that when I'm walking back to my car, I'm happy and smiling because someone decided to smile at me.

So someone today or tomorrow, try to share your pearly whites with a stranger. You'd be surprised how much of a difference you might be making in their day.

Friday, May 2, 2008

MBTA Green Line and Metrowest commuter rail, May 1, 2008

Dear person who found my husband's wallet.

Aside from just being a freakishly awesome human being, you took the sting out of an otherwise humiliating and absurd situation. Yesterday morning the husband pulled into the parking lot of our friendly neighborhood commuter rail station only to see his train pulling away. Frustrated, he jumped on the Mass Pike to the end of the green line which, with morning rushour traffic, put him within striking distance of being late and drawing the ire of his hospital overlords.

At the end of the day, he wearily boarded the shuttle to the commuter rail, boarded his train, cracked open his book and enjoyed the serene ride back to the suburbs, where he realized at once what he had done.

His car was fifteen miles away at the Riverside T stop. And, oh, by the way, his wallet's gone.

While all of this was happening, I was at my friend's house having a cup of tea while our kids played nearby and my phone rang fruitlessly in my car. Luckily, one of our friends answered his phone and rescued him from the commuter rail parking lot and drove him to his car. One crisis down, one to go.

Once we finally connected, I called our bank and credit card people to cancel his card and then went to the bank to withdraw enough cash to keep him afloat for the weekend (we're to Disney World without him- sorry, dude) while we're away.

One thing that I love about my husband is that he has almost childlike optimism. He said he'd find the conductor in the morning and see if anyone had turned it in. See, I was the one who hung up on him when I heard what happened so I could cancelthosecardsimmediatelyohmygodwhatiftheyboughtahousewithourmoneyalreadywaaaaaaahhhh!! whereas he had faith in his fellow commuters. When I spoke to him this morning he struck out, but was still hopeful. Moments later our local police called. Someone found his wallet and turned it in. Nothing was missing.

More than helping to restore my faith in humanity, you made it so that Husband didn't have to endure a day at the RMV and the insane labyrinth that is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Board of Licensing of Allied Health Professionals. See, Husband has to keep his professional licenses on him at all times and having to get new copies of these licenses makes the thought of a visit to the RMV look like a day at the beach. You also returned his brand new May T pass (a non-refundable $200 value).

So thank you, whoever you are. From the bottom of our hearts.

Kara and Husband