I was on my way down from the mountains on Interstate 26 when, a mile before Saluda, my car's engine turned off. I was going downhill, and for some reason, my spiritual practice of gratitude kicked in.
"Thank you that I am going downhill," I began, popping the clutch to jump the engine back to life. Nada. When the grade rose again, I coasted to a stop on the shoulder of the road. After trying to start the car two more times, I gave up, got out, and, leaning against the trunk of the car, stood facing traffic.
"Thank you that it's not too hot," I said, making my hand into the internationally recognized telephone symbol, my thumb and pinkie extended, holding it up by my ear.
"Thank you that so many people have car phones now."
"Thank you that I'm not in my pajamas."
I looked down and there was an orange-and-black butterfly sitting in some grass by the highway. "Thank you for the beauty of that butterfly. Look, there is another one! And another one! They must be migrating. Oh, that one's dead. Uh-thank you that the other ones are alive."
After ten minutes of signaling to passing drivers to call in about me, I started walking to Saluda.
"Thank you that I'm not thirsty," I muttered. "Thank you that I have shoes on I can walk in. Thank you that it's only a mile to Saluda from here. Thank you that I don't have to go to the bathroom. Thank you that it's not raining." After about maybe four minutes, I saw a Highway Patrol car coming north, on the other side of the median. I waved to him, and he waved back. "Thank you that the officer saw me. Thank you that he's turning around." He pulled to a smooth stop beside me and motioned for me to get in.
"Thank you that it's so cool in this car," I continued silently in my head (I'm not nuts). "Thank you that I didn't have to walk to Saluda."
The patrolman told me that the phone lines had lit up with calls about me. "Lotta people have cell phones these days." The nearest towing company was down in Columbus, he told me. It would probably take more than an hour for them to get free and come help me. He was willing to take me to the gas station in Saluda, where there was a pay phone I could use. He radioed the police dispatcher to get a phone number for the towing company. She gave it to him, and I had just enough time to write the number down as we swung into the gas station and jerked to a sudden stop. A huge black truck was barreling right at us; it screeched to a dramatic stop, barely avoiding locking bumpers with the patrol car. It was the tow truck.
"Heard you ask for our number over the radio," the red-headed man said, laughing, sliding out of the cab. "I'd heard the calls about her being broke down, and I was on my way down the road right north of here. Almost beat you."
I'm the luckiest person I know. Or maybe I have hit upon a spiritual practice with instant results. Either way, I'll take it.