The Amazon Return That Changed My Life
This week, I'm throwing it back to a post from December of 2016. It's a good story about a time I literally (not being dramatic this time, I swear) almost died, and the message still rings true today. Wake up, people. Happy Memorial Day.
I had to make an Amazon return about two weeks ago.
So one morning, I printed the shipping label supplied by Amazon, 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, where it sat for the next 3 weeks.
As with most chores and errands, I kept putting it off until “I felt like" doing it. (Because I apparently I think I’ll eventually "feel like" taking the trash out or folding laundry or refilling the cat food container. I mean, aren't you, too, often overcome with an overwhelming sense of “I feel like mailing a package today! I feel like waiting in line at the post office!”
Weeks later, after having literally passed the post office a minimum of 12 times while running other errands, I decided today was the day to get the box out of my backseat.
I don’t know why I picked this day. I wasn't even previously out and about. I just thought, “Hey, I’m gonna mail that package today." Besides being in dire need of my $22.38 refund, there was no real 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 2 weeks earlier for that matter?
I drove to the drop off location, which is not really a post office but a mailing/copying center down the street from my house. (Heads up, if you know me/are related to me, you're about to think I'm telling one of those stories where I give too many unnecessary details. DISCLAIMER: all of these details are necessary, so pay attention, folks.)
The mailing center is in the bottom of a huge mini-skyscraper-eque building (you know what I mean?), 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, cafe, yogurt shop, bank, grocery store, etc 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, stuck my phone in the console, 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, for the record.) The point is: it was cool. It was sunny. The sky was blue and clear. I was looking up and around at the beautiful day as I ran my silly little errand. I weaved between the cars and across rows of parking spaces, walked through the bank drive through, and I was just about to the yogurt shop when it happened.
Everything started to move in slow motion, which is how I’m able to recount this, because in reality, it all happened in about 3 seconds.
Brakes were squealing and screeching. People were screaming.
I looked towards the road to see where the car slamming on its brakes was. Right then, a red Jeep came flying in reverse onto the sidewalk nearly 20 feet in front of me.
Glass shattered. Smoke appeared. More people were screaming.
The jeep plowed through the glass doors and windows of the cafe. Glass was instantly everywhere. Right at my feet. Covering the sidewalk. Smoke and dust came from the building and the car. In a half second, it pulled forward 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 couldn't quite take it all in.
I was frozen. I was holding my box between both of my arms, dry-mouthed, with my heart pounding in big, deep rhythms 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 answers to those questions, which is why I set my 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 “Thank God I'm alive” without actually saying “Thank God I'm alive”, 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 30 minutes before I realized I was just a rubbernecking bystander at this point, and fled back to my car, the the un-mailed Amazon return still in my arms.
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.
What's relevant is 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?
I couldn't stop asking all of the variations of that question: 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!" I think she was saying, "Enough with your planning and stressing and trying to get everything 'just-so.' Anything could happen at anytime.” In fact, I think she was quite sassily saying, "Honey, you ain't in control."
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 the rest of the day, in every building I entered, I just couldn’t help but think, "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?!” Maybe I'm a bit dramatic. (My boyfriend is out there going, “Maybe?”) I realize if you hear the story second hand, you don’t feel the intensity of the near death experience the way I did. You just think, "Dang, car rammed into the building in front of her," and that’s fine. That’s normal, I believe. But even if I am just "dramatic," anything could still happen to any of us 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's tried that, and I still text and drive.)
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 been overdramatic about something or other.
So I write this because writing is just sort of what I do, 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, and we really should stop acting like we do.
It's hard to feel how rich life is until you're nearly run over by an out-of-control reversing SUV, and it's a shame it takes something like that to make us open our eyes to how lucky we are, but it does.
That day, the universe timed things out impeccably, and I got the message loud and clear. I didn’t mail the package, but better, I appreciated my life.I hope you appreciate yours, too, whether a jeep rams into the building in front of you or not.