I've tried to use this column to show readers that there's more than one way to
look at things, and sometimes a change in perspective can make all the
difference. But this time I want to share a little event that happened back in
1987, and the odds against it happening had to be astronomical.
A divorce had recently ended my 25 year marriage and my Mother suggested I get
away for awhile, saying she and I could take an extended trip across the
country. I had the vacation time coming, so why not? Before long we packed her
American Motors Concord station wagon and were off.
I won't bore you with all the beautiful sights we saw, but will go directly to
an evening along the Oregon coast. We hadn't seen another soul since leaving the
main highway miles back and begun exploring a narrow, isolated road winding
along the top of a cliff, overlooking the ocean. The sun was low in the western
sky and the views were what artists paint and poets write about.
Stopping the car on the side of the road, I grabbed my camera and jumped out to
take a few pictures. Mom thought she'd stay put and enjoy the sunset from the
car. Well, I was busy burning up film, when I saw a picture that I wanted to be
in, and went running back to the car to ask Mom to take it for me.
Now, we each had a key for the car, mine was in the ignition and Mom's was
safely in her purse ... a purse she didn't want to drag along while she took the
picture, so she left it on the seat of the car, climbed out and locked the door.
There we were, standing on the side of a road that wasn't much of an improvement
over an indian trail, miles and miles from anywhere, the sun sinking into the
"What're we gonna do?" Mom asked, as if I'd drawn up plans for situations like
this. "I don't know." I replied, thinking maybe I could tell her that my book of
emergency plans was in the car. Finally I suggested, "If a car comes by, and if
we can flag it down, and if they have a coat hanger,maybe I can get the door
"That's a lot of ifs." Mom grunted. She always had the ability to go straight
for weak spots in my plans. Then she bent down to pick up a rock that was to be
used in my education, but before she could straighten up, I saw the headlights
of a car bouncing up the road towards us, and we both waved frantically.
The approaching car pulled to a stop and a pleasant man and his wife asked if
they could help. I quickly explained our situation and he noticed our Ohio
license plates. "where ya from?" he asked. "Piqua, Ohio." I replied. The man
grinned and said, "We're from St. Paris."
We lived 10 miles apart and traveled all the way across the country to meet in
this isolated spot.
"I'm sorry," he said as he climbed out of his car, "we don't have a coat hanger.
But back home, I've got an old American Motors car sitting on blocks in my yard,
and for some reason I've got the key in my pocket." He fished it out and walked
over to our car, put it in the door lock and turned. No one could believe it
when the lock clicked open.
Such an isolated spot, this gentleman and his wife were the only people we'd
seen in a couple hours. Then to find out we were practically neighbors back home
in Ohio. NOBODY owned an AMC car ... that's why they quit making them! ... and
why would he have the key in his pocket for an old junker 2,000 miles away? And,
how many different keys would an auto manufacturer make for their cars?
Unbelievable as it all sounds, it came together one evening in Oregon.