Friday, October 28, 2011

Lessons From a Nissan

Ryan was young, energetic and the apple of his father’s eye.  They did everything together.  Mr. Fields had grown up poor as the child of migrant workers.  The family followed the crops and Anthony Fields was forced to attend three or four different schools every year.  There were gaps in his education on graduation day, but he was determined to overcome his difficult beginning. 
The week before graduation, Anthony Fields was hired as a custodian at an engineering firm.  He started the job the Monday after graduation.  He was assigned the evening shift, working from 5:00 p.m. until the offices had been cleaned and made ready for the following workday.  On his breaks, Anthony read in the many engineering books in the different offices.
One evening, an engineering team was working late to meet a timeline for a client.  Anthony made it a point to hang around outside the conference room and listen to their conversation as much as possible.  He was surprised that he understood some of the verbiage used among the team.  Eventually one by one, the engineers began to go home, leaving Mr. Trahan alone to complete the project.
Soon Anthony heard Mr. Trahan using language, indicating frustration.  Anthony took a deep breath and entered the conference room.  “Is something wrong, sir?”  He asked with deep humiliation.

“I spilled my coffee on these copies.  Now I’ll have to run new copies and start my final check all over again.”
“May I help you?”
Mr. Trahan gave Anthony several small tasks to complete.  Anthony made a point of doing each job to the best of his ability.  By the end of the evening, Mr. Trahan had taken a special interest in Anthony.  The following week he requested that Anthony be hired as his assistant.  The engineering firm recognized Anthony’s intelligence and helped him with a college education followed by a well paying job after graduation.

Before he even had children, Anthony Fields determined that his children would have the finer things in life that had been denied him because of low economic status.  His family now lived in a beautiful house, wore designer clothes, and drove expensive cars.  Anthony was proud of the way he was able to provide for his family.

On Ryan’s eighteenth birthday and against the advice of his wife, Anthony presented him with a brand new Nissan GT-R.  The car was sleek with its silver paint job and chrome wheels.  It had the fastest engine on the market and would do 0 to 60 in 3.5 seconds. 

“Now son, this is an expensive automobile.  You need to treat it well and take good care of it.  Owning a car like this is a responsibility.  I am trusting that you are up to the challenge.”

“I am, Dad.  I’ll take good care of the car.”

The first time Anthony found a scratch on the car, he looked like he was going to explode.  “How dare you treat this car like that?  Do you know what I paid for this?  When I was your age, I would have done anything to have an old junk car, much less a car like this.”

“I’m sorry Dad.  It was an accident. I’ll buff the scratch out.”  Ryan made good on his promise and the car looked like new again.

Every night Anthony asked Ryan about the car.  “How’s the car, son?”  “Is the car running alright?”  “Tell me about the car.  Anything I should know?”

It wasn’t long before Ryan began to believe the car was more important to his dad than he was.  Ryan loved that car, but there were times when he wished he had a clunker so he didn’t have to worry what happened to it. 

One Friday night, Ryan met up with a group of old friends.  They hung out at the pizza parlor, ate way too much, and talked even more. 

“How fast is your car, Ryan?”  Terry asked.
“It will do 0-60 in 3.5 seconds.”
“I don’t believe that.”
“Well you can believe what you want.  I’m telling you that my Nissan will do 0-60 in 3.5 seconds.”
“I’d like to see that.” Daniel whooped.
“Yeah, me too.” Chase chimed in.
“You are going to have to prove that to me.”  Terry challenged.
“Let’s try it out.  We can go out to Old Cemetery Road and watch.  We can time it as Ryan drives.”
“Oh, great idea.”
“Let’s go.”
Ryan knew better than to let himself get caught up in their enthusiasm and tried to squelch the game.  “Guys, I’m not sure that is such a great idea.  What if something happened?”
“Nothing’s going to happen, man.”
“Why, you chicken?”
“No, I’m not chicken.  My dad has been on my case about the car and I don’t want to make him angry.”
“Come on Ryan.  Don’t wimp out on us now.”
“I don’t want any of you to get hurt.”  Daniel tried again.
“We won’t get hurt.  We’ll stay in our cars away from you.  We can communicate by the walkie-talkies on our phones.  That way everyone is safe and we can all hear the signal to start.  We’ll start the timers on our phones.”
“Yeah, that’s a safe idea.  Come on Ryan.  Do it, man.”
“Alright, but no one rides with me. Understood?”
“Got it.  Don’t worry about us.”
“Yeah, we’ll be happy to stand on the sidelines and watch.”
“No standing on the sidelines.  You must all be in a car or no deal.”
“It was just a figure of speech, Bub.  Sheesh.  Lighten up man.”
The group drove out to Old Cemetery Road, parking on the side of the road to give Ryan plenty of room.  They stood in front of the first car’s lights to make sure everyone’s phone was working correctly.  Terry assigned himself the job of official time-keeper.  When everyone could hear Terry’s voice on their phones, they got back in the cars and listened to his instructions. 
Ryan got in his car, started the motor, and revved the engine.  It sounded great.  He checked all the safety features of the car.  Seat belt was tight around his hips; airbag was on and ready to operate if needed.  Then he heard Terry’s voice.
“Ryan, are you ready?”
“I’m counting down from five.  Here we go, 5-4-3-2-1-go.”
Ryan hit the accelerator as hard as he could.  He felt the pedal go all the way to the floor.  The G force was exhilarating.  He blinked once and felt the back tires hit gravel, sliding the entire rear end of the car to the right.  He turned the steering wheel to get back on the road.  All four wheels left the pavement.
The other boys sat in their cars, stunned from what was happening.  They watched their friend’s car lift off the ground and roll three times, coming to a stop upside down in the ditch.  The boys jumped out of their cars as soon as Ryan’s came to a stop.  They all ran to him, shouting orders, asking questions, and using language that would embarrass their mothers.
Terry started to open the car door.  “Don’t do that man.”  Daniel yelled.
“Someone call 911.”  Chase yelled.
In a very short time, the dark and otherwise, ominous road was lit up like a Christmas from the red, blue, and yellow lights of the different emergency vehicles. One police officer spoke to each boy individually and took statements.  He also lectured the boys as a group.  They were let off with a warning this time, but warned that if they were found in the area again, warrants would be issued.
Eventually the boys were dismissed and ordered to go straight home.  No one had to be told twice. 
Anthony Fields was in a deep sleep when the doorbell rang.  Mrs. Fields shook him.  “Tony, wake up.  Someone is at the front door.”
Slowly the realization of what was happening beckoned him from slumber.   Walking to the front door, he could see reflections of emergency lights flashing through the window and knew something was wrong.  Where is Ryan?  He took a deep breath before opening the door prepared to see Ryan in handcuffs, but found a lone officer standing on the other side.
“Are you Anthony Fields?” the officer asked.
“Yes I am.”
“Do you have a son named Ryan Fields?”
“Yes, is he alright?”
“Your son was in an accident tonight.  You will need to go to St. Luke’s Hospital immediately.”
“Is he going to be alright?”
“I really don’t know.  You just need to go to the hospital.  Would you like a police escort?”
“That would be helpful.  Thank you, officer.”
When Anthony returned to the bedroom, his wife was dressing.  “I heard what he said.  I’ll be ready in just a minute.”
Anthony began dressing as quickly as he could.  He followed the police car to the hospital, grateful for the assistance.  There were more emergency vehicles in the hospital parking lot.  Anthony and his wife hurried into the emergency room and asked for Ryan.
A police officer walked up to them and introduced himself.  “I’m Officer Smith.  We were called after the accident.  Several boys decided to challenge your son about the speed of his car, so they went out to Old Cemetery Road for the proof.  Your son’s car hit gravel and went airborne, rolling three times before coming to a stop upside down in the ditch.”
“Is he alive?”
“Yes, he is alive.  The doctor is examining him now.  Mr. Fields, this is a dangerous sport.  Please caution your son about any encore performances.”
“I will.  Thank you, Officer.”
A man in green scrubs approached the couple.  “I’m Dr. Gray.  Your son is in stable condition, but lucky to be alive.  He will require a couple of surgeries and physical therapy, but should recover with no lasting effects.”
“May we see him?”
Ryan’s parents were lead into a small room where they saw what appeared to be a very small little boy covered with a white sheet.  He looks a lot bigger in his own bed.  The couple walked closer to their son. 
Ryan opened his eyes.  “Dad, I think I totaled the car.  I’m so sorry.” He said in a weak voice.
Anthony could no longer prevent the tears from spilling from his eyes.  “I’m not worried about the car, Son.  It is nothing but metal, nuts, and bolts.  As long as you are alright, I’m happy.  I can buy another car.  I can’t get another Ryan.  Please get well, Son.  Your mother and I love you more than you can imagine.”
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