The Amazon Return That Woke Me Up
I had to make an Amazon return about two weeks ago. (On a totally unrelated note, I’m happy to report Amazon makes the return process pretty much flawless. #GetItAmazon)
So one morning, I printed the shipping label, stuffed the item back into the box with some bubble wrap, sealed it shut, covered the label with about 16 strips of clear packaging tape, and put it in the backseat of my car to be taken to the UPS shipping location down the street whenever I felt like making the 2 minute drive.
It would be an errand of about 10 minutes total. Drive time included. But I’m like this with errands and chores; I get the bulk of the work done, and then say I’ll finish “when I feel like it”. Because I apparently I think I’ll eventually feel like taking the trash out or folding laundry or refilling the cat food container. Or mailing a package. Yes, I am often overcome with an overwhelming sense of “I feel like mailing a package today! I feel like going to the post office!”
About 4 days later, after having literally passed the post office 12 times while running other errands, I decided today was the day to get the box out of my backseat. Let me remind you, Amazon makes the process so streamlined you literally just have to walk through the doors and set the package on the counter. And, in my case, pay a dollar. Then leave. So why I had not mailed this package earlier is beyond me. (In my defense, Amazon gave me until February 21 to mail it!! With a due date like that, why bother until at least February 19, right?!)
I don’t know why I picked this day. I was not previously out and about. I just thought, “I’ll mail that package today. I’m ready to get my $22.38 refunded.” Besides being in dire need of $22, there was no reason for me to go mail that package the day that I did. Or the time that I did. It was about 11:30. Why would I go right before lunch? Why not eat and then go? Why hadn’t I gone an hour earlier? Or 3 days earlier?
I drove to the drop off location, which is not really a post office but a mailing/copying center down the street from house. It’s in the bottom of a cancer treatment center, sandwiched between a yogurt shop and a cafe. It faces a boulevard, and so you can’t park in front of it unless you parallel park (which I don’t). You have to park in the giant, annoying parking lot full of one ways that serves the entire shopping center in which the mail/copying center is located.
So I circled the giant, annoying parking lot full of one ways for an embarrassingly long amount of time, desperate to get a spot “close” to the entrance. It wasn’t happening. After quite some time, I took a spot that even someone trying to park far away would call too far away. I grabbed my purse and the box, left my phone in the car (in the console people, not in the cupholder as an advertisement) and headed to the mailing center.
It was a beautiful day. I was wearing a sweater because I needed one, not because it was cute. Although, it was cute, too. The point is, it was cool. It was sunny. The sky was blue and clear. I wove my way between cars and across rows of parking spaces, walked through the bank (also a building in this shopping center) drive through, and I was just about to the yogurt shop when I heard brakes squealing.
Everything started to move in slow motion, which is how I’m able to recount this, because in reality, it happened in about 5 seconds.
I looked up and around to see where the car slamming on its brakes was. Right then, a red Jeep Cherokee came flying in reverse onto the sidewalk in front of me, through the glass doors and windows of the cafe. Glass shattered everywhere. Right at my feet. Smokey dust came from the building and the car. In a half second, it pulled out of the cafe and back onto the street, stopping.
My heart and stomach felt like I was riding an out of order elevator. I thought I was going to throw up. Did that really just happen? Was there really shards of glass from the windows of a car, or maybe a coffee shop, sitting glimmering at my feet? Were people really running out of the building screaming? Did that man in the white shirt and tie really have food all over him? And was his face bleeding?
I was frozen. I was holding this big box between both of my arms, dry-mouthed, heart pounding out of my chest. Did I almost just die? What would have become of me if I were walking 15 feet in front of where I was? I knew the answer, which is why I set the package down and slipped my right hand under the collar of my sweater onto my chest. I realize this is a totally cliche thing to do that seems to only happen in movies when the main character is trying to say “Oh my heart” without actually saying “oh, my heart”, but I promise, it’s actually a really normal thing to do right before you almost die but don’t.
I swallowed and watched the aftermath, still frozen. It was about 20 minutes before I realized I was just a rubbernecking bystander at this point, and fled back to my car. With the un-mailed package.
A firetruck, ambulances, and police cars eventually showed up. A man was pressing ice to his chin and many people in the cafe were outside consoling and calming their lunch partners. The driver of the red Jeep was being talked to by an EMT. But the details of what happened after the crash, and who was hurt (which was apparently only 2 people and only minorly so) are both fuzzy and irrelevant.
The point is actually that second question from 3 paragraphs ago: What would have become of me if I were walking 15 feet in front of where I was? What would have happened if I had found a parking spot 3 minutes earlier and been in the mailing center (which shares a wall with the cafe where the man crashed) when the accident happened? Why did I feel like mailing that package today? At this time? Why hadn’t I felt like mailing it the day before? Or the day after?
But I wasn’t walking 15 in front of where I was. I didn’t find a spot 3 minutes earlier. I wasn’t in the mailing center, and my “feeling like” mailing the package was just pretty random. Or was it?
I sat in my car for about 5 minutes afterwards, thinking about what happened, and I decided none of that was random. I decided it was probably very much on purpose. I don’t believe in a puppet master. I believe in the universe and her forces, and I think she was telling me, with a red Jeep crashing into the building in front of me, “Wake up! You never know. Anything could happen at anytime.”
It sounds kind of silly now, but I could have gotten run over! I could have broken my legs, been paralyzed, been killed. And I was fine, thank goodness, but I just couldn’t help but think the rest of the day, “A car could drive through this building at any moment and change my life.”
Parking lots freaked me out that day. A car reversing as I walked to mine made me stop and back up. “What if he guns it accidentally?! What if he doesn’t see me?!” I’m also, admittedly, a bit dramatic. My boyfriend is out there screaming, “Yeah dude I was saying that back in paragraph 2 when you detailed out how you mailed a box!” And I realize if you hear the story second hand, you don’t feel the intensity of the near death experience the way I did, and that’s fine! That’s normal, I believe. But that’s why I’m telling you that, yes, I’m dramatic, but also yes, anything could happen at any time. You never know. Wake up!
The universe picked a red Jeep driving (reversing, technically) through a building as her sign because how crazy is that? She didn’t say, “I’m gunna make her hit the rumble strips on the interstate while she texts and drives to wake her up and make her see how precious life is!” Because she knew that wouldn’t wake me up. Not for long, anyway. She’s tried that one many times. No, the red Jeep was her sign because of how crazy it was. Because had this been a story about me hitting rumble strips and living to tell about it, people would have stopped reading after paragraph 2 where I would have most definitely detailed out how I send a text message while I drive #Boring.
So I write this because writing is just sort of what I do naturally, but also because everyone needs a red Jeep to ram into the building in front of them, sometimes. Everyone needs that reminder that “damnit, this life is fragile.” We never know what’s going to happen and when. We live like we do, and to a certain extent, we must, or else we would be terrified most of the time. But we really don’t know. We really never know.
That day, the universe timed things out impeccably. I got the message loud and clear. I didn’t mail the package, but better, I appreciated my life.