4: Miracle Mike

4: Miracle Mike

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Random Acts of Kindness

Miracle Mike

There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.

~Albert Einstein

“Stop worrying, Dad! The car is fine. I’m going!” Famous last words from a stubborn eighteen-year-old version of myself as I flew out the door to go to my first college party.

The year was 1996 and I was just finishing up my first semester of community college. I had opted to get the first two years of general education classes under my belt at the more affordable community college before transferring to a university in my junior year. The closest community college was thirty minutes away, so I lived at home with my dad and commuted. Thus, since a commute was going to be involved, I had to have a car. After a few months of borrowing my dad’s vehicle, we had finally decided it was time for me to own my very first car.

I was frugal (and so was my family) so we headed straight to the used car section. I found what I thought was a great deal on a cute little car, but my dad had his doubts from the start. He wanted to get it thoroughly checked out before we agreed to purchase it, but not me. I was in a hurry.

“Daaaad. We can’t give every car the third degree. Let’s just pick one already. I want this one…”

So, he gave in. Yes! The cute little car was mine!

And no sooner had we driven off the lot than the problems started. First, the constant overheating. Next, the knocking sound coming from the engine. But oh no — I was not to be deterred. Not Miss Fancy Pants College Girl. I had my own car! So, the needle went to the “H” every now and then? Big deal! I just wouldn’t look at it. So, there was a pesky little sound coming from the engine? Hey — I could just turn up the radio. Problem solved!

So, here I was, smack in the middle of ignoring a multitude of warnings, heading out the door to a Friday night party in my college town. I had been looking forward to it for weeks and had been shocked that my dad was allowing me to go. But as the night arrived, along with an unexpected winter snowstorm, my dad started having second thoughts. The snowy roads combined with the problems that were plaguing my car were enough to make him speak up. But I was not listening. I was an adult, thank you very much. I was not about to miss that party.

So, off I went.

I swung by and picked up my friend Carrie and the two of us started on our thirty-minute drive in the snow. Just as we hit a long stretch of somewhat deserted highway, the inevitable finally happened. My precious little cute car spit and sputtered its final breath… and died. Luckily, I had just enough time to coast to the side of the highway, just barely over the line onto the shoulder, before it came to a complete stop. And there we were. Two eighteen-year-old girls stranded on the side of the road on a snowy dark night. Now, remember, this was 1996 — this was before we all had cell phones. There was no whipping out the cell and calling Dad for help. No, we were stuck. Really, really stuck.

We started looking around to see if there were any houses nearby. Of course it was too dark to see anyway, but having driven this stretch of road so many times in the past few months, we knew that we had managed to break down in the least inhabited portion of the drive. Walking to get help was not going to be an option. So, we decided to do the only thing we knew to do. We got out of the car and started trying to wave down passing cars.

After having no luck whatsoever, and starting to freeze in the frigid temperatures, we piled back into the car. We hadn’t sat there long before — oddly — a truck pulled over to the side of the road in front of us. Looking back, it never occurred to me how strange it was that he knew to stop. We were no longer standing outside the car and there were obviously no lights on inside the car since everything had stopped working. How did he even know there were people in the car needing help? Regardless, there he was. And boy, were we grateful.

Of course, we were hesitant at first to climb into a stranger’s truck. At this point, however, we were cold and desperate. The warmth of the truck was too inviting to pass up. As we climbed inside, the first thing we noticed was a picture of what we assumed to be his beautiful wife and two smiling kids taped to his dashboard.

He introduced himself as “Mike” and asked where we were headed. We explained our situation and where we were headed and, as luck would have it, he was heading that very way and would be glad to drop us off. We felt immediately at ease with Mike. He had a jolly laugh and had us giggling along with his family stories by the time we arrived at our destination. As we piled out of the car, we asked Mike if there was anything we could do to repay him. His only answer? “Just be careful, girls. Listen to your dad next time.” And with a wink, he drove away.

Had I told him that my dad had told me not to drive that night? I couldn’t remember. I didn’t think I had… but surely I must have. How else would he have known? I shook off the thought, and headed in to the party. I made the dreaded call to my father to explain the situation. Since it was so late and travel was so treacherous, we decided to stay at our host’s house for the night. My dad would pick us up in the morning when the weather had cleared. In the meantime, he would call the tow truck and have the car removed from the highway.

The next morning, my dad picked us up and we drove to the tow lot to get some personal belongings from the car. As we pulled into the snow-covered lot and rounded a curve, my jaw dropped open. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. There, under a thin layer of new snow, sat my car.

Demolished.

I was floored. What? What had happened? My father gave me “the look,” to which I immediately responded, “I didn’t do that, Daddy! It didn’t look like that when I left it, I promise!”

Of course, I was wasting my breath telling him that. Obviously, anyone could see that I hadn’t been in the car. Why is that? Well, for one thing, the driver’s side was smashed in. You couldn’t even see the steering wheel anymore — it was hidden beneath a mangled pile of metal that used to be my precious little cute car.

After a few phone calls and information from the tow truck driver, we learned that after Mike picked us up off of the side of the road, a driver had fallen asleep behind the wheel of a U-Haul truck, veered off the road, and smashed into my car, totaling it. The U-Haul driver, seeing that no one was in the car and realizing that his own vehicle was still in good driving condition, drove on and stopped later down the road to call in the incident. And here’s the kicker. After a review of the police report and the U-Haul driver’s statement, the estimated time of impact was able to be determined. The time? Approximately two minutes after Mike had picked us up off the highway.

Two minutes.

A mere two minutes later and my friend and I would have been sitting huddled in that car trying to keep warm as the U-Haul plowed into us. There is no doubt in my mind that we would have not survived the impact.

After discovering what happened, Carrie and I asked around to try to find Mike. We described his vehicle to everyone we knew. We even paid for a small ad to be placed in the newspaper asking him to come forward so that we could give him our proper thanks. No one ever turned up.

No one had ever heard of Mike.

I sit here eighteen years later reflecting on that night and I wonder. Somewhere down deep inside, I do believe in miracles.

And I’m certain my Mike was one of them.

~Melissa Edmondson

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