The Day Tumikia Saved My Life

Well to be absolutely factual, I might, maybe even probably, would have lived. Everyone on that part of the bridge at that moment did not die. One man who was driving a truck layed down on the floor as the roof of his truck crushed towards him. He lived. But I could well have died and that is the point.

It all started the morning of Tuesday October 17, 1989. Most Tuesdays and Thursdays my children’s father took care of them at his home. That meant I didn’t have to worry about dinner or homework. I didn’t have to rush home. I could breathe in some peace and quiet.  It was a good morning, a good day and I was planning on a good evening.

At the time I had a part-time job at Koncepts Cultural Gallery, a non-profit jazz and blues club that hung visual arts exhibitions on the club walls and had a small arts magazine. As the literary program director, I was lead writer as well as editor of the arts magazine Konceptualizations.  I worked with a three person team but one was absent that day. The lead designer was Tumikia. I came in with smiles to find her staring at the computer. I greeted her, got settled and asked some question about the work.  She bit my head off. I didn’t know what was wrong with her but I knew that it wasn’t me and I told her that in no uncertain terms as I  moved back to my desk and began working on some part of the magazine.

Sometime later Tumikia tried to apologize by offering me some gum. “I don’t chew gum,” I curtly replied and went back to my work.  She made a couple of other tries but I was stuck on being put off. I was already going through enough personal trauma and didn’t need her stuff on top of it.  However, since it is not my nature to stay angry I began to calm down.

When I started to prepare to leave for the day Tumikia suggested that we have a glass of wine at the nearby café. She really was sorry about the morning she noted.  I let go of my negativity and looked at her, a young, pretty, round-faced Black woman with bright eyes and a somewhat sad expression. Skilled at her work she always explained why we had to do this or really couldn’t do that.  She, more often than not, had a pleasant disposition.  “Sure,” I answered.

I waited about five minutes for her to finish up and then we walked to the café. We put in our order at the counter and as the owner was walking back to the counter with the two glasses of chardonnay the building began to shake.  It kept shaking. Born and raised in California I headed to the, then recommended, safe place of a doorway. Tumakia was right with me as the place continued to shake.

mexicali rose sign“I need to get home,” I told her.  She pointed out that we should find out what was happening.  “Hey let’s to the Mexicali Rose near the bridge entrance and have a margarita instead.”  I laughed at the thought. “Sure.”  We got in our respective cars and drove there.  As I entered the restaurant I looked up at the TV and saw a photo of the east side of the bridge with cars sandwiched between decks. A piece of the bridge had collapsed at rush hour.

lomaprieta freewayI stood in line with the others waiting for the pay phone so I could find out if my children were okay.  I finally got through to my children’s father who had used my daughter’s key to get into my house. They were fine, he was fine and he would stay there until I got home.

Tumikia had ordered the drinks and some chips and salsa.  We sat in the crowded restaurant glued to the television. We finished our drinks and I insisted I had to go home.  She then suggested I go get water and batteries before I took on the long way home.  I took her advice and began the drive to an alternative bridge miles south of where I was going.

loma prieta cars tippingWhile driving I rethought the day and figured out exactly where I would have been had Tumakia not invited me to have a glass of wine with her, which would not have happened had she not snapped at me, and would not have happened had I not decided to stop tripping.  I would, more than likely, have been at the wrong part of the bridge. “Hmm,” I chuckled to myself.  Who would have thought that Tumikia would save my life today?”

Can you think of a time when just chilling out brought an unexpected benefit to you?



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