About 15 years ago, Gwyneth Paltrow starred in the movie “Sliding Doors.” The movie takes a parallel view of a woman’s life if she makes the subway she is trying to catch or if she misses the subway she is trying to catch. It’s a classic “what if” moment.
Last weekend, I was in Syracuse for homecoming (and it is “homecoming”) and the annual alumni leadership meetings. Thursday night Linda, Zach, his lady friend Rebecca and I went downtown for dinner. Part of our drive took us onto Salina Street. As I made that turn and saw the street sign, I had one my “Ira moments” where I suddenly remember something that happened in my past. There is a usually a trigger to these moments – a name, a picture, seeing a person – and in this case it was Salina Street.
In the summer of 1981, between my junior and senior years, I spent the summer at SU. Friends of mine had taken an apartment near downtown Syracuse and one day I went to visit them. I like to explore so I decided to take a different route back to my apartment at 1019 Harrison Street (the “Castle” before the court). My drive took me through a fairly low income neighborhood on Salina Street.
It was a very nice summer day. I had the windows rolled down, the music blasting and I was enjoying my drive as I explored a part of Syracuse I had never seen before. On the hill where SU resides overlooking the city, we were a bit isolated from downtown Syracuse.
In the blink of an eye, my nice moment came to an end. A ball came bouncing out onto the street between two cars. How and why I have no idea but my gut and reflexes went into action. Something told me that where there was a ball, a child would soon follow. I slammed on the brakes as hard as I could right before a small boy came dashing onto the street between the 2 cars. Somehow I managed to fish tail around the boy, into the opposite lane where a car was heading right towards me, fish tail back into my lane and than into an empty spot on the street.
My whole body froze, I literally seized up gripping the steering wheel as tight as I could. The next thing I knew, a man of about 30 was outside my car window talking to me. From what I remember he was saying something along the lines of “Man that was amazing. I can’t believe you didn’t hit that kid…or anything else.”
The expression on my face must have been one of near trauma as the man must have realized. “Hey, are you OK? Just relax.”
Sensing my state at the moment, the man reached through the window and shut-off my car. At this point, I guess I came out of my temporary state of shock, opened the car door and got out. Looking at Salina Street I could see the skid marks the car had left. I leaned on my car, took a deep breath and thought to myself “What if I had hit that kid? What if had run into the car coming in the opposite direction? What if they spot on the street hadn’t been empty in just the right location for me to land in? What if?”
Luckily for that kid and for me, at the moment he ran into the street my guardian angel must have been looking out for me. Unfortunately for that boy, his not so angelic mother must have heard all the commotion and came outside to see what happened. One of the neighbors must have given her an eyewitness account at which point she chose to inflict her own brand of damage on her son and whacked him across the face. 21 year old Ira stood there thinking “lady, you should be that kids is alive” and drove off. 53 year old year old Ira probably would have screamed at that lady “hey you idiot, you should hug that child with all your might and be happy he’s alive” and than whacked her across the face. What if?