Monday, July 16, 2007

Americans are a lot like knitters

Americans are a lot like knitters.

Yesterday was a typical summer Sunday in July in New Jersey. Hordes and hordes and hordes of cars, suvs, rvs, and motorcycles choking up every conceivable road to the Shore. The Jersey shore. That infamous, low-lying, other-worldly place over the Barnegat bridge. Ocean County sits there all week long, but it's not until Friday or Saturday morning that most of NJ, NY and PA decides to invade it.

Due to the fact that we lived in Ocean County for over 25 years, we're no tourists, only re-visiting what was once home.

The thermometer was showing 97 degrees -- a typical day with haze, and that shimmery heat glazing over the roads while you drive. Everywhere, activity. Roads heavy with traffic, parking lots filled to overflowing with cars, long lines at every stoplight; a sense that all of us are on our own important missions, visiting, beaching, shopping, eating, recreating, whatever; groovin' on a Sunday afternoon.

Still, with all that going on, there was the frantic, hurried, frenzied feel to the day. But, on a steamy July Sunday in NJ that's just how it is. The pulse throbs, the atmosphere is electric, and there isn't a storm in sight.

Each car, each vehicle, is a part of the whole; yet we are all separate and only in a world of our own making. It's funny, really, how we all go where we're going, passing each other, only paying attention to the rules of the road. So there we were, scores of us, hundreds even, cruising along on Rt. 6, Rt. 206, Rt.15, I-80, I-280, the Garden State Parkway, Rt. 70, New Hampshire Ave, Rt. 9, and every side street in between; seemingly a part of a greater whole, but with the feeling of complete anonymity.

That's why it made no sense watching the black BMW coming straight at us, rolling in a crooked line towards our Saturn. On second glance we realized the driver was slumped unconscious, his left arm hanging out the window, his head, black hair, completely down on the open window ledge. The front of his car was badly smashed and all along the driver's side as well. Then, looking past this wrecked vehicle, we caught sight of an suv on its side at the intersection of New Hampshire ave. and Rt. 70.

Instantly, we drove into the Exxon station on the corner and Bob got out and ran to the overturned suv. I, too, stepped out. Stepped out into a world full of people; no longer in their cars, but hurrying, scattering, immediately stopping their cars so no more traffic came through. Running to the BMW, running to the suv. Instinctively I dialed 911, like, I'm sure, so many others did. I was able to tell the operator exactly where I was, and when she asked "is it a bad accident?" I replied, "a very bad accident."

Within a few minutes we watched as Bob & about six or seven other men righted the suv, for underneath was the man who was driving in the vehicle with his wife and 2 children. He lay there on the road, bloodied, not moving, then turned on his side. The other man was still unconscious in his BMW and a woman was cradling his head in her hands while others stood around her as if for support.

We didn't wait for the ambulances to appear, but, the images stuck in our heads all the way home.

Then, it occurred to me, that all of us driving around, anonymous to one another, will, in an instant, come to each others rescue, will put our own safety on the line, if necessary, to help each other out if we need to. All different ages, sizes, colors, religions if you asked.

All different. All the same. All Americans.

You could liken all of us to yarn. Cotton, wool, chenille, acrylic, mohair, ribbon, specialty, worsted, sport, baby, fingering, lace, and on and on. Some don't seem to go too well with others; some are a natural pair, some once you put them together, you are surprised indeed at how well they look together.

No matter the yarn, whichever way you knit it, they all produce the same look, really, they will give you the same sweater or scarf or socks, or afghan; just a different variety, that's all.

We are all different looks, aren't we, just variations on a theme.

So, the next time someone says to you, "America isn't so hot, it's not that great a place", agree with them. And then proceed to tell them, "America is not a great place, it's the greatest place there is."

The good Samaritan would agree with you.

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