Incidents and Accidents

I think the definition of the word “Accident” is the occurrence of an unexpected event; like say for example, a slip and fall down the stairs —or say maybe the unfortunate collision in a car. These are accidents. These are things, which happened without plan or intent.

I’m sure we all agree that accidents happen all the time.

I accidentally charged the wrong kind of refrigerant into an air conditioner once. I was at work and mistakenly grabbed the wrong bottle while believing I had the right one.
By the time the charge was underway and into the machine —I took a double take at the refrigerant container inside the box.
The color code was different from the right refrigerant type. Then I looked at the refrigerant number and realized I made a mistake. I grabbed the wrong refrigerant, which was marked 134-A, because it was stacked up in a series of boxes that was marked for R-22. In fairness the room was dark. I moved too quickly. I was in a rush and I didn’t look carefully at the canister inside the box.

This was an accident.
(I swear there’s a point to all of this)
True, it was my fault, but the intention was not deliberate. I would say that yes, I was careless. One could argue I was negligent —and it was my fault. Maybe this is so, but still, there was no bad intention. There was just a bad performance, which I learned from, and accidents like this never happened again.

Accidents happen all the time.
Take for instance, the old man that walked into me in the lobby of an office building on Lexington Avenue. The old man is a night cleaner in a commercial office building, He was walking backwards in the main lobby one evening. I stopped to avoid the collision; the old cleaner backed into me, and then a strange series of unintended events came to pass.
I grabbed the old man to stop him from falling; however, when the old man appeared stable, I let go, causing the man to turn in position and attempt to face me. Unfortunately, when the man turned to face me, his knees stiffened and he fell face first to the floor. He fell stiff as a board with hands at his side. Instead of falling and slamming down directly on the marble floor, the old man’s head hit the corner of a mop bucket that was left out for him.

This caused a large gash in the old cleaner’s forehead. It sliced from the lower left corner of his eyebrow and ran upwards across the top of his eye. There was a lot of blood. There was a lot of emotion too (at least from me) I felt terrible —and although it was an accident, I felt like this was all my fault

Now, there is another word that comes to mind. The word “Coincidence” means when chance moments connect a series of events, which otherwise, would never be connected.

Say like a thought of an old friend comes to mind, and as that thought occurred, the phone rang and it was that same friend.

What a coincidence.
Isn’t that what we say?

A coincidence is also unexpected and unintended. For example, showing up at a public event and there is someone else wearing the exact same outfit. That’s a coincidence.

I met a girl out at a club one night. She and I hit it off too, but the place was too crowded and we separated without exchanging numbers. Next day, I was walking through the mall while thinking about her and there she was.

What a coincidence.
We were happy to see each other. We both agreed it was too bad that we didn’t connect that night, but as coincidence would have it —somehow, chance (or fate) took its turn and there we were, face to face in the real world with a second chance to make things right.
We spoke for a short while, discussing the possibilities of a date or future rendezvous—but then another unexpected occurrence came to pass. Coincidentally, this girl was from my home town

Now, in fairness, she had not seen me in a very long time. In fairness the young man she remembered was not the same person she was standing in front of.
I was grown and much taller than what she remembered. I was cleaner too and my eyes weren’t half-shut and bloodshot; my hair was well-kept and I wasn’t dressed like a bum.

In fairness, I didn’t remember her. I didn’t know here by face or by name. She knew me; however, and how I learned about this was strictly coincidental.
When I asked where she was from to gain some kind of familiar ground, the girl responded by telling me the name of her town. In a brief and uncomfortable moment of awkwardness, I made a face when she mentioned it.

“I’m from East Meadow,” she told me.
I rolled my eyes because I was nervous of what she might remember of me. I was insecure that she might now about certain embarrassing moments from my past.
She laughed when I rolled my eyes.

“Okay,” she said believing we were going to play a game of popular geography.
“Who do you know from East Meadow?”

“Well,” I answered with a sense of nervousness. She was laughing playfully and waiting to see who I would name. I assume she wondered if we knew the same people. Perhaps she was curious to know if we had similar friends.
I assumed she wondered about the coincidence of how we met up, separated, and now we met up again —only to find that not only did we meet by chance, but as chance would have it, we had the same friends. I felt a rush of old shamefulness course through me and tingle the across the surface of my flesh.

Taking a “Might as well” attitude towards this discussion, I told her, “Actually, I know one person who grew up in East Meadow very well.”
I spread the corners of my mouth out wider as if to suggest the person I knew was not well-liked (because I wasn’t) and I sort of shrugged a bit to declare a sense of insecurity.

“Who do you know,” she laughed in a somewhat coy, somewhat flirty way.
“Do you know someone named Ben Kimmel?” I asked.
Her face turned to something disgusted. She seemed alarmed as if I mentioned a villain or someone on the America’s most wanted list.

“You know him?” She responded in a loud form of contempt.
She responded as if the mention of my name was an insult.
In response, I stood there straight-faced, listening to stories about me when I was young. She told about her friend’s father who supposedly shouted at me for drinking beer on his front lawn. And allegedly, I responded by explaining how I would light his house on fire while screaming something about Satan.

(There were other stories that she told about me, and oddly, I can’t say I could recall any of them as truth. This did not mean I can confirm or deny the  accusations —it just means I don’t remember any of them. And that’s all . . .)

“What a second.”
The girl paused with her assault of verbal humiliation.
“You don’t look like someone that would be friends with someone like Ben Kimmel.”

“How do you know him,” she asked.
Again, her facial expression told everything. It expressed a judgment of hatred and disgust. Also, the look in her face appeared like the added sum of my old fear or being me, of being who I was/ a scared, hurt little kid with no apparent way of being helped.

I shook my head and laughed to myself as  she spoke. I realized this girl knew nothing about me. I understood that she knew the person I was but she knew nothing about what I went through, why I was like that, or what I chose to do and become now.

Changing the energy in my voice from friendly to educational, I introduced myself and said, “Hi, my name is Ben. It’s nice to meet you.”
Quickly, the girl’s smile turned wrong and flat. Obviously, the person she remembered was not the same as the person she met.
I had become a full-grown man and cleaned up my act. I was shorthaired instead of longhaired and well-dressed instead of slovenly. This was a coincidence (of course) and it was an embarrassing one at that.

She remarked, “Wow, you look so different.”
“I grew up,” I responded.
“You sure did,” she agreed.

There was a brief banter of fake, back and forth comments. It was clear she wished she could recant the stories she told about me. It was clear that she realized I wasn’t that person anymore. And, it was also clear that I was looking to exit the conversation.

“You should call me some time,” she said almost apologetically.
“No thanks,” I said and then I just walked away . . .

Sometimes though—
(Here comes the point)
Accidents are not always accidents and coincidence is not a always coincidence.

In the days of anger and poor decisions, I broke a window of a man’s car and swiped his briefcase from the backseat. I was doing the wrong thing and about to fall backwards into worse behavior. I was “Sharing clean but living dirty,” as they say in the 12-Step rooms of drug and alcohol recovery.

Later that night, after I spent the $120 in cash, used a few credit cards, and tried passing off a few checks; I went to a 12-step meeting in the basement of the hospital on Hempstead Turnpike.
I recall the man’s name because it was truly ethnic. I recall making fun of the man’s Middle-Eastern ethnicity. I recall trashing the man’s briefcase and dumping all of his paperwork down a sewer drain in the street.

But wait, it gets better . . .

So, there I was at an A.A. meeting, sitting in the back, and half listening to a message I was no longer willing to receive. I was looking at the floor, —or maybe I was looking at the ceiling. Maybe I was looking at the door, thinking about leaving, or maybe I was thinking about a man name Habib (or something like that) whose money I stole, whose credit cards I butchered, and whose work I destroyed by throwing it down a sewer drain.

After a brief share from a member in the meeting, a show of hands went up. The leader of the meeting pointed towards a table on the left side of the room. I was in the back sitting behind one of the building columns, so I couldn’t see who the speaker picked to share about their day.

This is what I heard:
“Hello, my name is Habib and I am an alcoholic.”
My eyes opened wider than the side door, which I wanted to run through to get out of the room.

“It has not been a good day for me,” said the man.
“I parked my car by the train station this afternoon. I ran in to a shop to see a client of mine and I realized that I accidentally left my briefcase in the car.”

He said, “I thought it would be okay because I wasn’t going to be gone long. But when I came out, my window was broken and my briefcase was stolen. My wallet was in there. They took my credit cards and my cash. And all of my paperwork was in there. So, it has not been a good day for me.”

What a coincidence . . .

I have heard people use the word “They” saying “They did this” or, “They did that to me,” but in this case, I was “They.” I was the one who did this and what I did was wrong. Of all people and all places, I had to be there to see this. Shortly after, I relapsed. Shortly after that, I returned to treatment, successfully, for the last time.

Maybe this happened for a reason.
Maybe I needed this to happen
Maybe . . . . or
Maybe there is no such thing as coincidence.

I received a call this afternoon to meet with someone at the hospital. I was not on call as a specialist of any kind. I was only called in for support. The patent was recently out of I.C.U. He was dead after an overdose and brought back to life.

Unbeknownst to my fellow specialist on call who asked for support, I met with the patient in his home just two nights before the incident. We met privately and agreed to talk on the phone but the patient was unwilling to follow instruction.
During my last phone call with him, I explained what this life does, which was not a surprise at all. The patient knew all about the downside of drugs. I spoke with the man’s wife on the phone as well and made a few suggestions and recommendations.

She explained it’s a holiday weekend and how she needed to hold things together for a few days. Two days after our phone conversation, her husband, the patient, had a car accident while nodding off on heroin. This happened one day before the holiday.

The patient was found unresponsive at the scene. I was told his heart stopped and that the patient was saved.
It was just a coincidence that I was called in for support. Others were called but no one was able to show. It was just by coincidence that I responded and was able to reach the hospital.

We are all connected in some way, shape, or form. And I’m not sure if I know what fate is or what it plans, but sometimes, things happen for a reason. Of all the people that were called in this strange world, I was called in. I’m sure my face was the last face the patient expected to see.

I spoke with the wife on the phone after my visit. She mentioned, “When the other specialist told me she called someone in for support, somehow, I just knew it was going to be you.”

and it was.


Not if you ask me it isn’t . . .








One thought on “Incidents and Accidents

  1. I think there is a force in the universe, what I call “Sacred Mysteries” as it encompasses all faith paths, spiritualities and perhaps science as well. Some folk call him/her/it God. I think that certain special people, places, events are placed in our path as learning and life-changing experiences. Not every ‘accident’ may seem to be of a positive nature if we don’t take the time to ponder its relevance.

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