I was visiting a preacher friend of mine and we had gone to New Orleans East to drool over the books at the seminary bookstore. My preacher friend had a 3 o’clock appointment back in his office on the Westbank of New Orleans. We were headed back and the traffic on I-10 into town had backed up. We were both grousing about the idiot who likely was in an accident at the Claiborne exit. The closer we came to down town the more obvious that our traffic prognostication was correct. The accident was in the left lane and that was our shortcut to the Westbank. We wedged over into the middle lane to pass the accident.
As we rolled by my friend cried, “Oh no, it’s Stephanie!”
I pulled ahead and parked in front of the accident in the left lane. It was my friend’s daughter Stephanie. She had rear-ended someone in her Volvo. She was fine. Actually she was mad because she and the other party were waiting for the police to come do whatever they do at accidents. While her car remained in the left lane the other party had moved to the opposite shoulder and already had Morris Bart at the scene of the accident.
Stephanie was fine. The Volvo, which means “I run” would run despite the crumpled front end. My friend hugged his little girl and assured her it was OK. He then looked at me and said, “I need to meet this couple about their wedding would you wait with Stephanie until the police come?” I said the dumbest thing I have ever said in my life, “Sure.” As I watched the tail lights of my car vanish in the direction of the West bank I had this sick sinking feeling.
I should have told him to wait and I would have done the wedding conversation. I should have said, “Lets abandon this heap and all go to the Westbank.” I didn’t.
I stood with Stephanie and the crumpled Volvo on I-10 blocking the inside lane for two hours. Dad never returned with my car! I learned so many words of encouragement from passing motorists. Stephanie who was really cute received several offers from passing male motorists. I also learned that despite her innocent appearance, Stephanie knew how to respond in kind to some of the words and gestures being shared with us by delayed passing motorists. It was an afternoon from hell!
Two hours later the police showed up, spent five minutes at the accident sight and said, “Move the vehicle.” I had already opened the crumpled hood so I knew what needed to be done to the car. I took off my tennis shoe, used the string to pull the radiator off of the fan. I tied the radiator to the remains of the front of the car. I told Stephanie, “Get in, I’ll drive.”
We safely traversed the distance to my friend’s Parsonage on the Westbank. I thought about that story because my friend’s mother died this week and I’m making plans to go to the funeral. I’m going to ask Stephanie if she remembers our afternoon together in New Orleans. If her kids are there, they will be old enough to hear the story, complete with a recounting of Stephanie’s colorful vocabulary.
I’m glad I was there to help. It is much funnier now than when it was happening.
Jesus never said that helping another person would be easy.