Monday, February 4, 2013

Thank you for spilling the garbage.

Spilling the garbage
Thank you for spilling the garbage.

I am certain that you remember those special moments in your life when you had to say something breathtakingly important. Your message carried such importance that you had to make certain to make eye contact with the other person and adjusted your body language to let them know the significance of what you were about to tell them.
It was six thirty in the evening and I was driving home from work on the icy back roads of Barrie. It was the end of January and it seemed like old man winter decided to introduce himself to the city. The blizzard was blowing snow into my face as I pulled in front of my garage and as I was shaking the ice and snow off my shoes I was thinking about how I should tell my family … I opened the door walked through the hallway to say hi. I wanted to put my bag down and take off my coat so that I am more relaxed for the statement that I was about to make.
The timing was perfect. Peter, my oldest son had just come down from his room to say hi.
"Hi daddy," he said and I gave him a hug. When he stepped back I left my hands on his shoulders, looked him in the eye with all the sincerity that I could show on my face and said this:
“Peter, thank you for spilling the garbage by the front door this morning.”
"What?" He asked with the most confused look on his face that I have ever seen. What I said was silly, but the way I said it was serious. I looked over at my daughter Erika as she was sitting at the kitchen table writing a speech about German shepherds. Our dog, Nero is a two-year old German Shepherd. He's a smart dog and she was writing about intelligent things on a piece of paper in sharp contrast to the situation that was unfolding. I didn't want to build the suspense anymore.
"Listen to this," I said and started to tell the story that was supposed to make sense of my behavior.
“I was driving to work this morning and I was about 200 yards from the Maple view exit when out of nowhere I saw a three-ton, black pickup truck started spinning out of control right in front of me. After several 360 spins in the middle lane on Route 400, the driver lost control and was unable to stop the vehicle, knocking cars left and right as it was spinning and sliding on black ice. He was swirling around in front of me destroying cars in its path. I remember thinking, that there is no way I am going to be able to stop on black ice. I had pumped the brake twice very gently as I was holding onto the steering wheel, slowing down to about 60 km an hour. The truck was still spinning in front of me but just as I was bracing for impact, it moved to the left and smashed into the guardrail. A small portal opened up in front of me and I slowed down to drive to safety. As I was driving through I looked to the side and in the rear-view mirror. I was the only one that made it through. The driver of the truck was facing the opposite direction with a bewildered look on his face still holding onto the steering wheel. Traffic halted on the 400 behind me and I slowed down, even more, to check to see if anyone needs help.  Southbound traffic completely stopped, fortunately, I didn't see any cars turned over and other than some lost front bumpers no one seemed to be hurt. I kept driving very slowly on the icy road and I reached Maple you drive and went to work.

I looked at Peter again and thanked him one more time.

“Thank you again for spilling the garbage.”

I have received the same confused look from everyone so I had to explain a bit more.

“It took about four or five seconds to pick up the leftover pasta that you have spilled out at the front door, so I started my drive a few seconds later. If you would've never spilled the garbage I could have been right next to the guy in the pickup truck and he could have knocked my car off the road. I could be in the hospital right now, those couple of seconds have saved me.
“That's cool,” said Peter and his eyes lit up. He understood, so did everybody else.
So you see something bad happened this morning but a couple of hours later I realized that it was a blessing in disguise.
“Really?” he asked and I decided to spell out the moral of the story. 

Sometimes something bad happens to you in life and you are upset about it, but later you understand that you're really lucky that it happened to you because it has prevented something much worse.
If there is an aha moment in life, that was it for them. In hindsight, I still remember the silent complaining in my head when I was picking up the cold leftover pasta from the frozen patio like why can’t they tie up the garbage bag before they put it out, what is so hard about it? Why am I always the one picking up the garbage after everybody else?  I am going to make a new rule. No one can take out the garbage until they tie up the bag…
I Think I will have those thoughts fade away and focus on the lesson that I have learned again. There are some lessons in life we have to relearn again and again and this was one of them.
Peter, thank you for spilling the garbage.