Faith, Friends, And Automobiles

I used to be a fan of Touched By An Angel. I guess it was a time in my life when I really needed a little Divine Intercession. But as I recall, I would no sooner finish watching an episode then switch to the next entry of The Sopranos. Nevertheless, the concept of Angels intrigues me still.

Eileen and I had a recent discussion about Angels and she is a believer in their existence and involvement in our lives. I am not so sure that she isn’t right because I believe in them too and I have a few examples of their intercession in my life and they are the subject of Faith, Friends, And Automobiles.

On the first occasion of Angel spotting that occurred in my life, I was actually the Angel. It was a Sunday evening and I was driving back to the Bronx after dropping Eileen off at St Vincent’s School of Nursing. I was driving my 1973 Chevy Vega. Having skimped on my car purchase by not buying the Nova, it should be no surprised that I avoided the toll on the Tri Borough Bridge and went by way of the no toll Madison Avenue Bridge and 138th street. Those of you who have made this maneuver will recall the ramp coming onto 138th and the lovely environs in which you were deposited.

Just as I was coming off the ramp and making the right turn towards the Bruckner Expressway I saw a stalled car on the side of the street. It was my friend Paul of Pat and Paul fame. He looked at me as I pulled up as if I were a messenger from God. I think I was. I was there just at the right moment. Fifteen minutes earlier and I would have missed him. Had I opted to pay the 50 cent toll I would have missed him. It was God who determined that I would be late and cheap all at the same time. As my wife Eileen is often heard to say, “There are no coincidences.” You will read this statement very often as I proceed.

Fast forward a couple of years and in that same 1973 Chevy Vega Eileen and I are heading into the Bronx from our apartment in Flushing. We were on the Van Wyck heading to the Whitestone Bridge. Just as we approached the bridge my Vega started acting, well, like a Vega. I was able to goose it up the bridge to the last exit in Queens. As we rolled down the Third Avenue exit in Whitestone I looked behind in the rear view mirror and saw Pat and Paul in their car. They just happened to be on their way from Brooklyn going into the Bronx, too. They returned the favor that I had extended a few years earlier. There are no coincidences.

The next visitation occurred sometime in the summer of 1977. Still driving that same 1973 Chevy Vega which I had just picked up from our Irish mechanic, Sean, I stopped off to see my parents at 1261 Leland. Sean was a great mechanic. I asked him how much it would cost to fix my electric rear window defroster and he replied. “How much could it cost?” I never got a real answer and I never fixed the defroster.

Anyway when I was at 1261 I called my friend PJ to confirm that he was coming out to Flushing so that we could go for a run and thereby justify the beer that we would have afterwards. But PJ cancelled. He wasn’t up to driving, running, or drinking. I was disappointed but what the heck?

I set off for Flushing and as I paid the toll on the Bronx side and reved up my four cylinder, aluminum block animal of a car, the very thing that had caused me to take the car to Sean in the first place happened again. As I accelerated the manifold pipe fell out of the manifold and the car sounded like one of those funny cars that used to pop wheelies nine feet in the air. Noise wasn’t my only problem as I was now dragging this pipe underneath my chassis. Once again I got off the Whitestone Bridge at the first exit.

I didn’t know what to do so I called PJ. He was tying up my manifold pipe fifteen minutes later despite the fact that he had been too tired to drive, run, or drink. Now most people would just see this as an extemely nice thing done by an extremely good friend. I used to think that and, in fact, I used this example of friendship in my religion class that I taught at St Vito’s. Had I known better I would have said that PJ was an Angel that night but he never knew it and, until recently, neither did I.

For the next angelic tale we really have to go back to the future. I was working at Columbia and I was still looking to go back into teaching. I had an interview somewhere in the town of Islip. I was driving into work and in those days I was driving a 1975 Mercury Monarch. This was an eight cylinder car that was bad on gas and that we bought twelve hours before the beginning of the gasoline crisis of 1979. Anyway, it was now 1985 and the car was on it’s last legs.

It didn’t have a check engine light as such but one that when lit stated “You’re killing me you bastard.”

So, here I was driving onto the Southern State Parkway near Babylon and my Monarch abdicates and goes and dies on me. I get to the shoulder and immediately a trooper comes and calls in for a tow truck. Not two minutes later I see this car pull off to the side of the highway and out of it came my nephew Jimmy.

“Uncle Jimmy what’s going on?”

Well, Jimmy was driving his parents’ car who were away on a European vacation. Jimmy drove me to the repair shop where we held a funeral service for the Monarch and then we went to his home in Baldwin. He then gave me the keys to the car for the week.

How did my nephew arrive just at the moment when I needed to be rescued? There are no coincidences.

There have been other instances of Divine Intercession that may be considered mere coincidence but I know better. Two people starting to say the same thing at the same time? That’s a coincidence.

People who just happen to appear out of nowhere when you need them most?

You decide.

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