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Who Holds the Key?

March 16, 2000

KeysA discerning educator shared a parable creating both conflict and awareness for me. A wise man and student were walking. The pupil saw a man in the water. “Master, that man is drowning. Aren’t we going to go help?” The master softly replied, “He has not asked for our help.”

I have trouble asking for help, and a tendency to help before invited. I admit too, my nose has been bent and broken. I have difficulty correlating `Destiny’ and `Freedom of Choice’ – like at the McDonald’s near the Sedona turn-off.

Three young guys and two gals had a mini-tailgate party in the rear parking. A macho white Jeep towed a majestic jet boat; invasive speakers blared out music. Among Big Mac cartons were alcohol bottles, obvious that the three gents had consumed far more than burgers.

I shared my hope one was the designated driver, subtle as painting a target on my nose. After less than complimentary remarks about my age and drinking abilities, I went inside – where I noticed one of the young ladies. At my smile she nervously approached.

“They’ve been drinking the whole way. I can’t get them to quit.”

It sounded good on commercials so I suggested, “Take the keys. Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.”

“Right! I don’t even have a license – I just turned sixteen.”

I looked at her short blond hair with slight spikes about the top, her blue eyes about level with my chin.

“Sixteen,” I repeated. “Awfully young age to die.”

“Maybe you can talk to them. Even my girlfriend won’t listen to me and she’s sober. Can’t you help?”

“Find a phone, don’t get in, stand up for your rights, you might not get another chance.” All my suggestions sounded even colder as I left. Then I realized how she looked like another 16-year old I know.

Rounding their group, I commented on the boat. “Mind if I sneak a peak?”

“Just stay out of our ice chest,” laughed the barrel-chested kid, bigger than in my school days.

Stepping up on the trailer I leaned over the right side. The key with a red float was below the curved mirror on the dash. I saw the young girl in the reflection – before I palmed the key.

On the other side of the rig I pulled the float loose and dropped it in the boat, figuring it might keep them off the lake. While pondering what to do with the key – one guy stepped over the trailer tongue.

His faded purple tank top hung loose, revealing big arms that flexed with the mere gesture to his comrade. “Hey, help me toss these empties. Don’t want to make it too easy for the cops!”

He threw a wad of keys upon the open driver seat and began scooping up bottles from the floorboard. It took a few minutes. Looking past the roll bar to the guys at the trash bin, I stared only a moment at the unattended keys.

We can have 2,000 thoughts for every 2 seconds of time. Mine included wondering if the expensive Jeep was Daddy’s, if the ladies told their folks they were going, if any of the five were legal age, and how the heck to get the little knob off the end of the key ring.

I pulled what resembled ignition keys, three in all. On the sun visor was a clear plastic with registration and business cards. Typical realtor cards, not the kid’s face. I shoved them in with my new key collection. Then, I tossed the remaining keys back upon the blue bucket seat watching them bounce once before I slipped into my car.

The next day I used an envelope and copied the name and Scottsdale address off a business card, taped the keys on the card, folded it in the registration, and placed all in the mailbox with the little red flag up.

Red flag. I questioned if I intruded on destiny or choice. I knew folks on the roads and lake. I would not want someone to let me drive in that condition. Maybe I should have just hoped the kid got pulled over. And then…I remembered the young lady.

I wondered how the disappearance of the keys and registration would be explained. I’ve had strange things happen with no explanation. I decided if I was the father or employer, I’d want to know how my keys magically came back to me.

And, I wanted that young lady to know that sometimes you only get help by asking for it.

But most of all – I want you to know, that someone was listening to your plea. And, that I hope your life is a spectacular one.

Pierre O’Rourke is a long-time resident of Scottsdale, Arizona.

Reprinted with permission of East Valley Tribune

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