Long story short

That is the start of the story. The end of it? I don't think I'll forget anytime soon. Also, 7 other things worth your time.

With Thanksgiving on Thursday, let’s call this Gratitude Week. I’ll start with a strange and specific thing that I am now very grateful for. It happened last week, and I have not been able to stop thinking about it.

Our story begins with the fact that our refrigerator isn’t working correctly. It’s basically stuck on the lowest/warmest setting.

So, my wife calls the Appliance Guy.

The good news? It can be fixed.

The bad news? It will take until the second week of December.

Ah, the joys of home ownership. We need something to tide us over in the meantime. Luckily, there’s a social media group in our town—neighbors helping neighbors, that kind of thing.

My wife goes on it and asks if anyone has a small fridge we can borrow. Sure enough, a guy offers to lend us one.

We don’t really know him outside the group, but we lent him our hand truck for a project a few weeks ago. He’s happy to return the favor. It’s very nice of him.

As for the fridge, imagine an apartment-sized one, just barely likely to fit in our small SUV with the seats down.

The neighbor says he’ll put it in front of his building. My wife texts me the address.

But then, the day goes by. Next thing I know it’s almost 6 p.m., and I haven’t picked it up yet. I head out, but it’s pitch dark.

Also, I don’t really know this area of town that well, but Apple Maps guides me toward a small apartment building on a busy street.

Did I mention how dark it is? No street lights, lots of cars. Rush hour, basically. I crawl by the address—or at least, what I think is the address.

But, I can’t see the fridge. Could someone have walked off with it?

Traffic picks up. I’m growing frustrated. One guy flashes his brights in my face; another one honks his horn. I’m annoying everyone. I drive up and down, two or three times.

Apple Maps insists that I’m in the correct spot, but it doesn’t look right.

Finally, I double park and jog toward the apartment building. Cars fly by; I feel like I’m taking my life in my hands. I spot the fridge; it’s actually in front of a small office building across from the apartments, on a tiny side street.

If you have images enabled, I used Google Maps to get a screenshot of the satellite image below; I think this will help. Keep in mind that it was very dark, and there was a lot of traffic.

  1. The orange arrows indicate where I was driving up and down the main street.

  2. The green-blue arrow indicates where the fridge was located.

  3. The small pink arrow points to the door of the apartment building I’d originally thought I was looking for.

  4. And the red dotted arrow… well, we’ll get to that one in a second.

I pick up the fridge. It’s heavy and bulky. I can barely carry it. I wise up, leave it there for a minute and run back to my car. Then, I double-park again, closer, just in front of the office building. I open the tailgate and fold down the seats.

Despite all the traffic, I only notice three other people on foot. Two women and a Little Girl (a toddler, really) are heading into the apartment building across the street. The women—Mom and Auntie, let’s say—have their hands full. Groceries, maybe a Target run.

Little Girl is talking non-stop. Either Mom or Auntie says something about Paw Patrol, and she gets very excited. It’s cute.

By now, I have the fridge again. I struggle with it, half-running, half-falling toward my car, afraid I’m going to drop the whole thing. I’m stuck on the irony: The guy lending us this fridge borrowed our hand truck, but I wasn’t smart enough to bring the hand truck to move the fridge.

Then, my trance is broken. I hear: Stop!!! No!!! Come back!!!”

Memory plays tricks on you, but I recall:

  1. Little Girl is running. Why is she running? She’s moving faster and faster and faster toward the busy traffic. (That’s the red dotted line in the photo.)

  2. Mom and Auntie are chasing after her, but it’s clear they aren’t going to catch Little Girl before she reaches the street.

  3. My mind races, but not the right questions: Will I be interfering if I chase after the girl? Will her mother be insulted and think that I don’t think she’s a good parent? Will we be able to find another fridge if I drop this one and break it?

Fortunately, even as I overthink the situation, I’m already running, sprinting, pure instinct. Gosh, this would be easier if I were not in the worst shape of my life right now.

And… I make it with no time to spare. If I had to guess, I just did a 30 yard dash at NFL Combine speed. I can hardly breathe, but a quarter of a second before Little Girl steps into the main street, I jump in front, putting my body between her and the cars.

I might be imagining this afterward, but I think I remember a driver screaming an obscenity at me, as they nearly hit me and swerve away.

Anyway, I swoop down to grab Little Girl, but it’s not quite necessary. She’s so freaked out by the sight of this crazy, bearded, red-faced guy jumping in front of her that she bursts into tears and turns around and runs the other way—right into the arms of either Mom or Auntie.

They’re emotional, maybe even crying. One of them keeps saying, “Thank you sir! Thank you sir! Thank you sir!” over and over and over.

I’m all the way back to the car by now, shoving the fridge into the back of the SUV. Finally, it occurs to me to reply: “You’re welcome. I’m just glad she’s OK.”

I close the tailgate and pull away. It’s over. It took me much longer to write this here than it took to happen in real life. (Also, if I’m being honest, I started composing this entire thing in my mind immediately, planning to use it for the newsletter.)

Since then, I’ve kept thinking about all the things that had to happen exactly as they did, down to the very split-second, to put me in a position to get between Little Girl and the busy traffic with zero time to spare.

The congestion, driving up and down the street, the darkness, the fact that I put off even going to pick up the fridge until about six hours after I was originally supposed to. All the petty annoyances.

Also, of course, we had to buy this particular house, and before that, my wife and I had to get together…

I hope Little Girl grows up to build a better mousetrap or something. And, you can call all this whatever you want in order to explain it, or choose not to explain it at all.

But this year, on Thanksgiving? It’s too late to make a long story short. But, bottom line, I’m thankful that our fridge isn’t working correctly.

Call for comments: I hesitated to share this story, because I don’t want to sound like I’m portraying myself as a hero or anything. But, I’ll bet a lot of you have similar stories: “If I hadn’t been there right then at that moment, X wouldn’t have happened.”

So, I’d love to hear some of them in the comments. Things you’re grateful for are also welcome of course; tomorrow’s newsletter will be a bit more on point about that, too.

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7 other things worth your time

Thanks for reading. Photo credit: Carol Green on Flickr. Want to see all my mistakes? Click here.