The traffic was swiftly moving across the Tappan Zee Bridge. I had reached the bridge in under an hour, making great time on this cloudy afternoon. This commute is a crapshoot, and you never know what traffic you may hit when. This was a good day, moving along to the Thruway at great speed. I may get home at a reasonable hour today.
The cramp started slowly, as more of a twinge. I could feel the twinge begin to grow, beginning in the arch of my driving foot and moving through the foot and my toes. At this point I am flying at almost 70 miles per hour hour heading to the Garden State Parkway. I screamed in pain as I felt my toes lock, especially the big toe of my right foot. I knew I could not keep driving with my foot deformed and unable to move much. I had ankle strap shoes on, very cute but not conducive to coming off easily as I drove. The pain was halfway up my calf when I pulled into the rest area as soon as you cross into New Jersey.
My car careened into the first parking space I saw and the door opened before I made a complete stop. I leaped out of the car and immediately worked to remove my black high heeled sandal. I stepped onto the cool cement with my bare right foot trying to work the cramp out. As quickly as it came on, it was gone. I jumped back in the drivers seat and quickly drove out of the rest area. That was painful but quick, I thought and I merged back onto the highway.
I was still making great time, that few minutes didn’t seem to change the flow of traffic. I figured I would be home by 8:15pm at the latest, 2 1/2 hours home was great time. My long drives to and from Connecticut are always better when I get to talk with a friend so I called one. We were catching up on life when I saw brake lights. Lots and lots of brake lights.
I slowed to a complete stop. I was now one of the brake lights, with my car in park. I was in the left lane with nowhere to go, not that anyone was going anywhere. We were stuck. I heard sirens and watched the Clark fire truck drive on the right shoulder to bypass the parking lot of cars. Next was a Cranford police car, state troopers, and Clark and Cranford ambulances. This was not good. I looked on my Waze App to see what was happening ahead of me and if there was a way to get off the highway. It was just about 8pm. Multiple people reported a 5 car accident about 2 miles ahead of me.
I was describing the scene to my friend Nancy and told her it was only 2 miles ahead of me. I realized as I said that out loud that by the grace of God, I was about 2 minutes behind the accident. Two minutes were the difference between me sitting in miles of traffic and me potentially being in that accident. I told Nancy that had I not pulled over for two minutes to deal with a foot cramp, that could have been me. Those two minutes of feeling silly that something as mundane as a Charlie horse caused me to actually pull over and yet may have kept me from injury or worse. As the Charlie horse happened I debated in my head, pull over or suck it up. The pain won. Now I know why. It could have changed my life or worse.
I have heard many stories of unusual situations that kept people safe from harm, missing a flight or a train that then crashes. I remember very well during 9/11, hearing the chairman of Cantor Fitzgerald saying he wasn’t in the World Trade Center that morning as it was his son’s first day of kindergarten. He spoke of divine intervention, a reason he was spared. An angel watching over him. I don’t believe I ever suspected or felt this before this night.
There was a death that evening. One person wasn’t going home that evening or ever again.
At that moment, I too realized that a guardian angel was hovering over my shoulder, looking out for me. It was sobering and made waiting 3 hours bearable. I would get home that evening, someone else was not.
Two minutes that could have changed life forever, thwarted by an Angel disguised as a cramp.