The washing machine I was delivering had smashed into the cab of my truck. Of course it had. That’s what happens when you go from 40 mph to a complete stop in less than three seconds. Then, as I pulled it out, I noticed the control panel on the washer had a big dent in it. I tried unsuccessfully to squeeze it back to it’s normal shape. I considered telling the buyer what had just happened, but they would never believe the story, I thought to myself.
Earlier today, I left home to deliver a washing machine. I was driving down a very busy street going almost 40 mph. After passing through an intersection, I noticed something very small in the street ahead. Running as fast as he could toward my truck was a 2 1/2 year old little boy, right in the middle of my lane. Instinctively, I hammered the brakes, and with the truck convulsing, stopped less than 10 feet from the boy. He didn’t stop running toward me until I hit my horn, which really startled him. A lady on the side of the street was ghost white, as was the driver behind me.
The boy started running up the side street, apparently heading for home. I quickly surveyed the situation, and seeing that no one was with him, I followed in my truck down the side street. He ran straight for his apartment complex, and by the time I got to the area he had run to, he had disappeared. I picked an apartment somewhat randomly, and found his family on the first guess.
I told his parents parents the story. It turns out a friend had left the door open and their energetic little son, who has autism, bolted out. Eventually he ended up in the road, one of the busiest in Portland, running at full speed toward my oncoming truck.
Reflecting back this afternoon about the ordeal, I learned a few things.
1. Watch the road. If I would have been distracted by anything else while I was driving, texting or otherwise, the little boy would have died. That was going through my mind as I was driving away from their apartment. A texting ban isn’t about me. Our cars are like little tanks, capable of taking lives in the blink of an eye. Our texts, food, makeup, books, music, animals, kids in the back seat, spouse, friends and lovers can wait. If we allow for distractions while we drive, we potentially do so at the expense of other people’s lives.
2. Don’t assume the worst. There’s always more to the story. As I walked up the parking lot of the apartment complex, I started thinking about what I was going to say to his parents. Absolutely nothing came to mind. I was calm, and just wanted to let them know what happened. When I finally talked to them, they explained what happened. A door had been left slightly open by a friend. The boy has autism, and he is only 2 years old. Everyone makes mistakes. Accidents can and will happen, no matter how much we try to prevent them.
3. Do the right thing. The moment the boy ran back off the street away from traffic, I had one thought shoot into my head. Well, you’ve done your part, I thought to myself. Then the father in me kicked in and I wanted to make sure that he made it home safely. It ended well, but I’m somewhat embarrassed by how close I was to just driving off after he was out of the road.
Then I blew it by not telling the whole story to the buyers of the dented washing machine. It doesn’t matter how crazy the story was going to be, how awkward a situation might end up, we need to do the right thing, come what may. Shortly after I got home, my friend Dave challenged me to tell the buyer the story. So I returned to the buyers house and told them the story, and swapped the washer out for a newer, nicer one. It ended well. She was very touched and appreciative that I would return.
Personally, I believe it was an act of God that spared the little boy. Why was I still in the right lane when I would soon be turning left onto another road? Why did he stay in just my lane, when crossing into the next lane over would have meant death? Why was I paying attention when just a second of distraction would have brought disaster? Why did the customer decide to have me deliver the washer today instead of yesterday? Why at 10 a.m. sharp?
If you would have told me that today there would be a two year old that would run into oncoming traffic on one of Portland’s busiest streets, I would have said it would be a miracle if he survived.