Timing is Everything
So. On the way home from work tonight, I picked up a toddler who was standing at the side of the road.
Yeah, it surprised me too.
I once picked up a tween out here, on the 55 mph main road, who was walking along with clenched fists, crying, in his pajamas, in the snow, barefoot. I let him settle down a bit and then drove him home, where I imagine he had not been missed. (I’ve often wondered if I did that kid a disservice.)
But this was a baby, maybe 20 months old. Certainly not yet two. And no, this kid hadn’t been missed yet either.
Okay, so I’m speeding along this flat stretch and I see a dog on the road up in the distance. If it had not been for this dog, I don’t know that I would have seen the child at all. I would have driven by at about 50 miles per hour and maybe he would have just blended in with the scenery. A couple of days ago, I got almost to work and couldn’t remember half of my trip. Clearly, I passed all the same buildings and crossed the railroad tracks and went over the bridge like normal, but for the life of me, I could not recall a bit of it. What if that had been today?
But there was a dog in the road. A yellow lab. You can’t predict what people or animals will do, so I had slowed to maybe 15 miles an hour – and I still didn’t see this little boy until I was almost right on top of him. He was standing maybe two feet off the road, on the other side of a ditch, right next to a driveway. He had both his hands up over his ears, as though the traffic was too loud or something. Of course, I was the only traffic, but it made me wonder about other cars going by before me. I stopped and said, “Hello!”
I don’t know…a lot of things were going through my head and I was pretty surprised. So, that’s what I said.
He immediately started talking to me and walking toward my car. I said, “STOP!” And he did. I said, “Stand Right There.” And he did. All I could think about was how I had to back up without him following me so I could then pull into the driveway without running him over. But he was very good.
When I got out and walked around the back of the car, he hurried right up to me and took my hand like he belonged to me. I should have kept him. But…well…I guess that’s just wrong. So we walked up to the house, both of us talking all the way. I didn’t understand a word he said, except that the dog’s name was Juno.
When we got there, Dad answered the bell. He seemed…weirdly unmoved. I think he was surprised and disoriented to find a strange woman on his front porch with his son. I asked him if he had lost a child. He asked me where I found him. He told the baby that he was supposed to have been on the back porch. I think Dad was probably embarrassed, too. As he should be. I sure hope he keeps a better eye on his child from now on. “You were supposed to be on the back porch, buddy.” What was this guy thinking? I bet he doesn’t tell Mommy about this.
As we were walking up to the house, I was mentally preparing myself for all manner of tragedy and mayhem. I mean, why else would a toddler be on the road? Clearly, someone had a heart attack or had fallen down the stairs. I was prepared for blood or death or anything that I might find. But all I found was just regular negligence.
Oh, yeah…the timing.
The thing is, I was supposed to get off work at 2:30 this afternoon. But with one thing and another, it was 4pm before I actually left. I ran an errand and then I had to go back to work for something I forgot, etc. So, I was on that road a full 2 hours later than I had planned. When I got home, I thought about that, about how timing is everything.
And another thing: when I wrapped my mind around the fact that “this is a child I’m looking at”, surprised as I was, I kind of felt as though it were simply a matter of course. Like it was my job to take him home; like he had been waiting for me to show up or something. Just me.
He was an awfully cute kid. Maybe I should have kept him.