A crowded lunch joint. Seated beside me is a man reading a newspaper. I glance at a sobering headline that reads: “Boy Scouts of America Files for Bankruptcy.” The man with the paper sighs, and folds it closed.
Meanwhile, the television above the bar rolls shocking footage of a shooting. This is followed by reporters talking about deaths due to coronavirus.
Then come pharmaceutical commercials by the dozen. After that, a legal commercial about how to sue pharmaceutical companies.
The waitress looks at the TV and says, “Hot awmighty, they never tell you anything good do they?”
She changes the channel. The TV shows a riot. She changes it again. On the television screen are two men in suits shouting at each other with spittle flying. She flips again. The news announcer says: “Two more deaths from the coronavirus, experts say you should all run for your…”
Mercifully, she turns the television off.
A man at the bar says, “Thank you.”
Another man raises a coffee mug. “‘Preciate that.”
And you get the feeling that everyone here is about to applaud.
The mood improves considerably. Pretty soon the waitress is playing music overhead. I hear a steel guitar intro. It’s George Strait, singing about Amarillo. And color is being restored to the world. Thank you, George.
The waitress warms up my coffee and I’m feeling a lot better now. Certainly, I know the universe is full of bad things, but it’s full of good things, too. And sometimes I wish that I heard more about them.
A few nights ago, for instance, I heard about one such item. I met a man who told me about angels.
“Angels?” I asked him.
“Yes, angels,” he said.
The man was white-haired. He looked like your favorite granddaddy. He spoke with a thick Georgia accent and wore plaid.
“I was driving home late,” he began. “Crashed into a log truck.”
His wife held one of his arms while he leaned onto a cane. He showed me photos of the auto accident. His car looked like a Weltmeister accordion.
He touched the scar on his neck. “The logs hit me right here. Had to have surgery, they cut me open and replaced C-seven with a cadaver bone and titanium. I shouldn’t be walking right now. It’s a miracle I wasn’t decapitated.”
His wife elbowed him, “But tell him about the angel.”
“Oh yeah, the angel.”
“Tell him about how he saved you.”
“Right, well, I was…”
“Go on, tell him.”
“Dadgum it, I will if you let me.”
A stranger came out of nowhere and dragged him from the wreckage. The stranger instructed him not to move his head, then he used both hands to hold the old man’s neck in place for forty minutes until paramedics came. The stranger saved his life.
In the end, the accident wounded a lot more than the old man’s body. A mind is never really the same after trauma.
“They said I had PTSD,” he went on. “I couldn’t get behind the wheel of my car, I was terrified.”
His wife elbowed again. “Tell him about the road trip.”
“Right. Well, I was…”
“Tell him about the trip across the United States.”
He looks at her.
After he healed, they took the trip of a lifetime. He and his wife spent twenty-four days driving U.S. highways and seeing North America at eye level. He forced himself to get back in the saddle. It took a while to get his courage back, but he did it.
They had so much fun that as soon as they got home, they turned the car around and did the trip a second time.
“Tell him about the catfish house,” his wife went on.
One night they were in a catfish joint when he heard a voice coming from another booth. He recognized this voice. The old man approached a stranger and asked, “Excuse me, sir, your voice sounds familiar, do you know me?”
The guy recognized him all right. The guy said, “Oh my God, you look a lot different than when I found you in that car.”
The old man’s eyes were turning wet when he retold this story to me. So were mine.
“It was the angel,” his wife said.
“Yeah,” the old man said. “It certainly was.”
Why is it that the worst things in humanity get the most airtime? If you want to be scared to death, all you have to do is turn on the television and an anchor will tell you about how the universe is falling apart and how drinking water will kill you.
Believe me, I’m not here to throw stones at journalists. Shooting rubber bands at them? Maybe. But I draw the line at stones.
Still, if you ask me, there is a lot more in the world than what’s on the screen. There are miracles. There are men who have been saved by angels who eat catfish when they’re off duty. Good things happen everywhere, all the time, they just don’t sell many newspapers.
The waitress asks if I’m ready to pay my bill. I tell her I am. I thank her for the George Strait music. And for turning off the TV.
“No problem,” she says. “I don’t watch the news anymore, brings me down. Hot awmighty, I got enough crap to deal with, I wanna hear something good.”
Hot awmighty. Me too.