Sunday, February 26, 2012

Shanghaied and Marooned

Sometimes, out of the blue, you find yourself in a moment and a place where there is no other way to describe what you’re feeling than the word “Alone.”


This happened to me a dozen years ago, in Shanghai, China. My friends and I had crossed the city to attend a legal expatriate evangelical church service. This was a long trip that involved a 40 minute bus ride, a 20 minute walk and a 20 minute subway ride.

Returning after the service, we had ridden the subway, and were walking the long walk to the bus stop. My stomach was hurting. Several times, I had to ask my group to stop and wait for me to rest. We made it to the bus stop and got our bus.

Busses are always overcrowded in Shanghai, even the two story ones like the one we were on. Sometimes there is so little space, that you have to stand there with one foot on top of your other one. Ten minutes into the bus ride, I knew I was going to throw up. I just prayed for the bus to stop so I could get off. I fought to get to a door.

The bus stopped. I got off. None of my friends knew. I made it to a tree and threw up into the gutter for several minutes. I then sat down and recovered my strength. After a few minutes, it dawned on me. I was somewhere in the middle of Shanghai, China. It was late at night, and no one even knew I was gone.


A couple of days ago, we came back very late from a Bible study in another neighborhood. my son had fallen asleep in the car, so we put him in bed. He and my wife take a certain medication that is on a strict 12 hour schedule. When we got home, we realized that there was none left. The only option was for me to go downtown to the 24 hour pharmacy and purchase some more.

This worried my wife. For one, it was late and downtown isn’t safe at night. Two, I am presently deaf and that makes it even less safe for me to go alone. Three, we had no cash and just barely enough in the bank to cover the cost of the generic version of medicine, unless they charged extra at night. Four, they were already 2 hours late taking the medicine and she was a pile of nerves.

I took the car downtown and parked a few blocks away from the pharmacy. I walked up to the window and in just a few minutes time, had the medicine in hand. I jogged back to the car, and seeing several men sitting on the sidewalk, nearby, decided to get in and drive away quickly. As I got in the car, I saw one of the men getting up. I closed the door and started the car.

When I pulled away, I got about 50 yards, and felt a pop. The car stopped. I coasted to a stop on the side of the road. Oops. I opened the hood. I checked the spark plugs. the distributor cap, the carburetor, the fuel filter and pump. Nothing.

It was 1:00 AM. I couldn’t get the car to start. I had no money for a bus ticket, not that there was one going to my neighborhood anyway. I had no money for a taxi. I had no way to tell my wife that the car had broken down, or that I would be very late.


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