The world had already begun to anticipate the Harmonic Convergence which would occur when six out of the eight planets of our solar system would align marking the end of a 52 cycle epoch of the Mayan Calendar, but I was about to participate in a harmonic convergence that though smaller in scale would be personally much more satisfying and memorable.
As I walked toward the sidewalk leading to Camp Sun Tree I smiled at the sight of the Luck of the Irish approaching from the opposite direction. We greeted each other with a mutual gleam of recognition. It was not the first time that our orbits had crossed given that we were locked within the gravitational pull of the same sun, The Girl Next Door from my dorm freshman year at UC Davis. The Luck of the Irish gave me a jovial pat on the shoulder as we turned to head up the path that led to the door of her apartment. The Girl Next Door beamed and giggled a bit as she opened the door exclaiming, “Oh! What are you two doing here together? …Oh, no you must be on to us!”
We were not consciously on to them. I knew from biology that it could happen that women living together in close quarters could attain a certain physiological synchronicity. It had happened and we could smell the sweet aroma of the result in the air: her roommate Jet Girl from Electric Avenue was in the kitchen making chocolate chip cookies with cocoa powder in the batter; The Salinas Cowgirl was just getting ready to drizzle chocolate icing over a chocolate bunt cake with Kalua cream chocolate pudding filling in the middle, and to drink the feast down ‘Roll was invoking the warm nectar of the Aztecs stirring a version of Xocolatl containing cocoa powder, vanilla, cinnamon and a hint of cayenne. The Luck of the Irish and I had no way of predicting this grand convergence but we empathized with our friends’ condition and offered to mitigate the damage by helping them consume all the tasty treats before they hurt themselves trying.
That night I began to realize the value of timing. It was a harbinger of things to come. I actualized the blessing of timing years later. I was attempting to go to work but I was encumbered by one small impediment. This tinny human in a pink jumper had crawled over and clung to my leg; it was my four month old daughter. Something told me to acquiesce to the urge to just go ahead and play with her for a few minutes. There was nothing pressing at work that day and my boss The Sandman would understand. Extrapolating our play session to its most illogical conclusion took up about 45 minutes, but she was once again interested in food. I knew my role was strictly entertainment so I handed her over to her mother and went to work.
I arrived just as they were putting up the police barricades following the shooting. It seems that a man with whom I had often sat and shared lunch, The Building Painter, had gone on a bit of shooting spree that morning. During our regular lunches he would frequently mention his grievances regarding how he was being treated by his supervisors. That morning he decided to express those grievances with ordinance making a kill shot to the head of the maintenance supervisor and another shot to the head of the paint shop supervisor severely wounding him and a third head shot critically wounding the hospital director. I have often wondered if he had passed me in the hallway during his shooting rampage would he have recognized me as the person he had shared lunch with so many times? Would he have responded to any attempt at intervention or was his rage so blind that I would have become a target. I was saved from the possibility of such confrontation by taking a few minutes to play with my daughter.
Thus I began to see that good timing was not only being in the right place at the right time to catch events but sometimes being at the right place at the right time to miss events. For example I had been in the San Francisco Bay Area the week of the start of the 1989 World Series between cross-bay rivals the Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giants. I did not have tickets to the series but I was tempted to just stay for the party; The Girl Next Door did have tickets to the series. Nonetheless, I stuck to my schedule and drove 35 miles past Oakland Coliseum to San Jose Airport to catch my flight back to Southern California. A couple of days later shortly after the start of game 3 the Loma Prieta Quake occurred. The largest number of fatalities (42) occurred from the collapse of the Cypress Street Viaduct on the Nimitz Freeway (Interstate 880). However, because of the World Series Game the traffic on the freeway was lighter than usual and fewer people were in that place at that time. It would have been so much better if no people were in that place at that time, but construction design from 1959 and fissures in the earth’s crust thousands of years old converged to create tragedy. Who can really predict all the ramifications to our plans years down the road?
On one particular day I could not have predicted how something that began in high school with a writing assignment in Mr. Fischer’s journalism class would lead to a divine appointment wherein I was just where I needed to be in order to be just what someone needed. I was going to Dinner with my high school football coach Skip Cain the night before my Bay Area book reading. He drove me toward his favorite family Mexican restaurant, the first place he used to eat lunch when he moved to Fremont. However the restaurant was not where he remembered it. We drove back and forth a few times giving credence to the possibility that maybe Skip was just disoriented by recent construction. Finally Skip decided to stop and gas up his truck to give us a moment to reconnoiter. Not being a luddite I had a smart phone and not a flip phone like Skip, so I consulted Google Maps and pronounced the verdict, “Skip I think your favorite Mexican restaurant is gone. The nearest Mexican restaurant is 4.5 miles from here and…”
My announcement was interrupted by the screeching of tires on pavement and an abrupt crashing sound.” I looked up to see a dark colored sedan careening off the front end of a Northbound SUV traveling up the road on the side of the gas station. The dark colored sedan continued the path of its left hand turn into the gas station while the SUV just stayed frozen in its original traffic lane with its female driver equally frozen in place at the wheel. I could not remember what you said during freeze-tag to unfreeze people and I could not figure out why she just sat there in her car. Her air bag had not deployed and her front end damage was not so severe as to indicate possible injury to the passenger. Maybe I was wrong? Maybe I had underestimated her injuries or maybe she was just so overcome with shock that she did not know what to do. I waved to Skip to follow, “We better go check on her.”
When I opened the passenger side door she looked at me and started waving her hands. It was not an angry or frightened waving of the hands but purposeful movements infused with desperation and movements whose basis I recognized, American Sign Language. I instinctively signed back, “Don’t worry! I will help you; come out.” Unlike two weeks before when two deaf women approached my research team’s table at a cultural fair I was not terrified at the idea of signing with someone who was deaf despite not doing so for over a decade. I was compelled by exigent circumstances to dig back into the recesses of my brain and remember all the conversations using ASL I had with my friend Cheryl at the VA. Those conversations were made possible by me walking up to a table of deaf people eating lunch and signing with each other in the cafeteria; I was buoyed by the confidence of having taken one sign language class years before. Selecting ASL for my continuing education course while working at the State Developmental Research Institute, was probably a result of my interest in the topic of “overcoming disability” residual from having completed my Proteus project for Mr. Fischer’s senior journalism class on that topic.
Even that selection was the result of a conversation I had with Mr. Fischer in the teacher’s lounge when he expressed concern over what he believed to be my chosen topic based on having shouted out, “DEEPER PENETRATION” during the in-class brain storming session. To his credit Mr. Fischer gave me equal consideration writing the topic on the board without flinching as he had every other topic ejaculated out of the mouths of my classmates during that popcorn idea session. However, in the teacher’s lounge he expressed concerns over how my project could embody the spirit of gonzo journalism given some involvement reports were required. In that regard he had some concerns over possible legal ramifications, civil liability and other long lasting residuals of pursuing my project. Despite my impairment in reading non-verbal clues I was able to discern the subtleties of verbal language and perceived that Mr. Fischer was strongly encouraging me to consider other topics. I chose to confront my worse fear and write about being disabled. That decision allowed me to be in the right place at the right time to help out a woman frozen in a moment of fear not knowing how she would communicate in a difficult circumstance, but I was able to sign to her, “I will be your interpreter.”
- For other stories of Derek Vincent Taylor's experiences read his books:
- 1989 Bay Area Earthquake
Thank you Angela. I enjoy sharing stories with friends. Where were you during the 89 quake?
Derek’s writing is always so captivating and thought provoking.