The Right Place at the Right Time

September 12, 2014

So many times I hear or think about the phrase "In the wrong place at the wrong time."

I've experienced it too.

Not as traumatically as others.  As I reflect back on 9/11, it's clear many people that day were "in the wrong place at the wrong time."

You hear about these freak accidents of a tree randomly falling on someone.  Sadly, I am aware of multiple freak accidents like that.

Or a car crash - what are the chances that those two vehicles would cross paths at that same time?

But tonight was different.

Tonight I was in the right place at the right time.

And I look back over the evening and ponder so many things that put me in that place at that precise time.

It's Friday night.  We like to go out for dinner on Friday nights.  We went to our favorite local restaurant.  And we were famished, so we went early.

I think about our waiter and how he served us and at what pace.
I think about our toddler and how she behaved remarkably well, which allowed us to stay for an extended time.
I think about how I forgot to use the restroom like I had planned, which would have altered the time we left the restaurant.

So many little things that caused us to be in the parking lot at our car at the exact time we were.

Catherine was slowly (of course) getting into her car seat, and we were patiently (of course) waiting.


What was that??

I look up and over back toward the restaurant.  Oh man, a truck just backed into another car.  Or did two vehicles back into each other?  No, that silver car is empty.  Oh man, the truck just hit a second car!  What is going on??

Knowing with no doubt in my mind what I need to do, I start walking over toward the vehicle in question.  Wait a minute, um, he's not stopping.  What??  No, he seriously can't be driving away from such obvious, hard hits.

Another patron is approaching the truck and talking with the driver.

Was it his car the guy hit?  Does he know him?  Are they in on this together?  No, he's trying to convince the driver to stop.

Wait.  The guy is driving away.  What?  Somebody stop him.  How?  I keep getting closer to the scene, but the guy is getting away.

I approach the group of people there who had seen it and learn that not only had they seen this man hit the cars, but they also saw him stumbling drunk out of the restaurant.

My brain just keeps going.  Who do we need to contact?  What action needs to be taken?

I know.

It's been a LONG time since I've had to use it, but I know I need to call 911.

Between the few of us there, we are able to give a decent description of the driver and his vehicle (which included a dent in the driver door) and the direction he was going when he left the parking lot.

But time quickly passes.  He goes around the corner.  And is gone.

After the call I continue conversing with the other witnesses.  I walk back to our car where my husband and daughter are patiently waiting.  I know what we have to do next.  I direct Josh to go in the direction the truck went.

I'm not optimistic, but I'm determined.

We go slowly, scanning all driveways, parking lots, side streets.  And as we do, I'm so mad at myself for not taking a picture of the guy or his vehicle.

I had said his license plate number out loud, but only remembered a few of the digits.  TK and an 8 and 9 somewhere.  Maybe a 1, 5, and 3.

What color was the truck?  Silver?  Tan?  How can it be a mixture of both??

We go through a nearby neighborhood and look at the plates of a couple similar looking trucks.

"TK!"  I exclaim and then realize it's the start of all the truck license plates.  Darnit!

We search down one more side street; then my phone rings.  It's dispatch.  They want the info of the vehicles that were hit.  They tell me an officer is at the scene.  I tell them I'll go back to talk to the officer.

On the way back we continue searching.  Josh's slow driving was driving me bonkers.  He told me I needed to calm down.  I told him I would if he'd step it up a bit.

As we pull back into the parking lot I see the police car ahead.  And as we're approaching it, I stare down one more truck going in the opposite direction.  Dented driver door.  I turn around and see an 8 and 9 in the license plate!  It's him!

"Pull up to the police car!"  I holler at Josh, knowing time is of the essence.

"I think that's the guy!!" I shout to the patrolwoman.  She asks if I was the one who got hit.

"No, I'm the one who called 911."

She took my word and went off after him.

Fast forward a bit to another phone call with dispatch.  I gave them additional information, and the dispatcher said, "It looks like they got him."

"Really?!  It was him?!"  I thought it was too good to be true.

I was astounded.  Excited.  Proud.

"Sorry," I apologized for my enthusiasm.  "I'm just a fighter of injustice.  And I feel like tonight justice won!"  My eyes teared up, and I swallowed a lump in my throat.

After I got off the phone, I contemplated that maybe the dispatcher just made that up to shut me up.  But I figured I'd let myself believe it for now anyways.

Fast forward to later at home.  The police officer who I literally yelled at in the parking lot is calling me.  And sure enough.  She confirmed it.

"We got the guy.  You were right.  It was him.  He had a blood alcohol level almost three times the legal limit.  He's locked up in jail."

My heart smiled.  It burst with joy.

Justice did win tonight.  It may not tomorrow or the day after that.  But I'm going to enjoy tonight's win just for the moment.

When I texted the news to the other witness (the one who approached the truck, informing the drunk driver that he just hit two vehicles and was trying to convince him to not drive away), his response summed it up well, "Great to hear!  You may have saved a life tonight!"

Tonight I was in the right place at the right time.

But that's not enough.

It takes being in the right place at the right time, and doing the right thing.

I don't share this to boast.  I do it to encourage you that if you find yourself happening upon some form of injustice, don't assume someone else will fight it or let someone else deal with it.

I could have very easily just looked away, shaking my head, thinking "Bummer for them." after those cars were hit.  I could have taken the easy way out, thinking about how I just want to get on with my evening and head to Target.

I could have let the guy just drive on knowing he was drunk because how was I gonna stop him.  I could have viewed the whole situation as hopeless, not worth fighting.

But, I am a fighter.  There is hope.  And one person can make a difference.

There is victory for us injustice fighters tonight!

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."  - Edmund Burke (and my 11th grade history teacher)

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