It was a beautiful, warm, clear day in September in Michigan, a truly rare event. I had to work night shift, which for a big-shot Level I Trauma Nurse in Downtown Detroit like I was, that meant working 7pm – 7am in one of the country’s most dangerous cities during the most dangerous times. I loved it.
That day, I wanted to see my girlfriend for a little while before I started my shift so I left my house early. It was a 30-minute drive.
Before that time it used to be difficult to get out of the house to “handle my business” because of the living situation which I was subject to – I was married.
By the time the day came that I am describing, that situation was indefinitely remedied. I had no idea when it would change again, but for the time being I could come and go as I pleased. Even though I wasn’t divorced…yet, we were separated so I was living a bachelor’s lifestyle, more or less.
I had a tiny Saturn that I used to run around Metro-Detroit in. This is the car I used to visit my girlfriend before and after shifts on days we didn’t work together (we met at work), as well as commute from her house to mine whenever needed. That little car was so dependable. I think it had about a million or so miles on it, but it ran great; I NEVER had any problems with it.
Nikki’s dad sold it to me for basically nothing to help us out. I returned that favor by using it to betray his daughter.
So… after my visit, I continued on and headed into work. Now, where I was and where I needed to go, only required about 15 minutes worth of driving on the highway. What could go wrong?
I was inside the Detroit City Limits, on the expressway, when I first noticed something odd. I lost all acceleration and my radio died.
For anyone who knows me, they’ll understand quickly why I had to cross over 3 lanes of 70 MPH traffic to get to the shoulder… I REALLY LIKE the left lane
As I was making my way to what I hoped would be safety, I noticed the faintest whiff of… BBQ? Then I noticed traces of smoke coming out from beneath the hood (I wasn’t out of traffic yet). I thought, “Oh, okay, I’m just over-heating.” Yeah, right. I don’t know ANYTHING about cars. I knew LESS at that time.
By this time I was already launching up prayers at a feverish pace to the God I believed in but didn’t want controlling my life. I finally made it to the shoulder. Not a moment TOO SOON. Just as I put my trusty Saturn in park, a WHOLE LOT of smoke was pouring out from under the hood.
I thought, “Well, I guess the best course of action here would be to pop the hood and take a look.”
I mean what was I thinking?! That this was a great idea based on all my previous experience…IN NURSING? I must have been the guy they talked about when they would say, “he’s often wrong, but never in doubt.”
So, I pulled the little lever under the driver’s side dash to release the hood latch. Then, I walked to the front of the car in my cute, little scrubs, raised the hood, and POOF!
FLAMES! That’s right. As a matter of fact, it was more like INSTA-FLAMES! Then I thought, “WHOA!” I may have even said it out loud. I immediately began to empty the car of anything I could salvage. This included my backpack (which I used to hide my…pharmaceuticals), phone charger, random mail, you know, all the normal stuff people have in their cars. I was also able to save Gavin’s car seat (he was 3 at the time).
I waited patiently as all the appropriate public services showed. The Detroit Fire Department came to extinguish. The paramedics came to do their thing. And the police came because they had to, I mean, to take an official report… or see if I was murdered.
After all was said and done, I was physically safe and sound. I even made it to work, only a little late.
I never found out exactly what happened that day, but I truly believe with my whole heart that God sent a dash of Heaven’s hellfire onto my little Saturn, maybe as part punishment, but mostly as a wake-up call. But even after such a dramatic experience, I remained “deep asleep.”
Up to that point, in 9 years, if I was ever in need, I ALWAYS called my Nik first, and she was ALWAYS there for me. That day, I was standing on the side of the expressway in Downtown Detroit, with my trusty Saturn engulfed in flames all the way to the backseat (all that remained was part of the backseat and the rear of the car), and I was in NEED. I called my girlfriend first. There was only one reason. I knew… that my wife…… was in labor – with our second child.