Thank you to everyone but the guy in the middle of the road

There was a guy in the middle of Stone Avenue.

My wife and I had just pulled out of The Handlebar and were on our way to visit with a bunch of old friends. It was getting on past midnight and we were tired, but the people at the downtown bar were folks we hadn’t seen in a very long time.

But, there was a guy in the middle of Stone Avenue.

Right there in front of the Waffle House, halfway under a car, right in the middle of Stone Avenue.

Three cars looked like they’d been involved in the wreck. None of them looked like they’d been damaged too seriously. But there was that dude in the middle of the road in the middle of the night.

I have a fairly unfortunate history of finding people under cars. It rarely turns out well. Nonetheless, it didn’t look like the guy was moving, nor did it look like anyone was coming to help. So, while my wife called 911, I jumped from the driver’s seat, left my car in the middle of the road, and ran to the guy under the car.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

By the time I reached the car, I realized the guy wasn’t pinned. He could be dragged out if we determined it was safe. I looked in the car. The driver looked stunned or stoned. I couldn’t tell in the dark. The driver’s side airbag hung limp over his lap. I looked back down to the guy in the middle of the road.

“Man, are you okay?”

“They sideswiped us,” he groaned.

I assumed he meant the other two cars that were banged up about 50 yards behind me. Two men ran out of the Waffle House.

I asked one last time, “Buddy, are you okay?”

There was no blood, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how the guy had been thrown from the vehicle in what had to have been a fairly low speed accident. It just didn’t make sense.

“My back. It hurts,” the dude said. He stood and walked to the the side of the road where the guys from the Waffle House were waiting.

I stood in the middle of Stone Avenue for one more second and watched as the guy Hollywood-ed his way to the curb. He was a limping, slouching, midnight picture of insurance fraud.

By the time I made it back to the car, my wife was trying to explain to the 911 operator how the wreck didn’t look that bad and the guy in the middle of the road wasn’t in the middle of the road anymore.

That’s a long was of explaining to the people at the after-party why we didn’t show up. By the time we’d finished with a guy who will undoubtedly get paid $5,000 by State Farm Insurance before the end of summer, the night and the months leading up to it had finally forced us toward bed.

Last Friday night, I went to a fundraiser my wife organized in honor of our friend Chris. It was part of a larger fundraising effort supporting Donate Life South Carolina. It was an amazing success and a testament to how wonderful our friends are. Not only was the concert at The Handlebar a party and a half, but it gave us a chance to remember a great man.

The night was so busy that I didn’t get a chance to talk to everybody, and those conversations I did have were way too short. The longest I got to chat with any of my old friends was the five minutes I spoke to my friend Stephany about blogging. The one-night party could’ve been a full weekend and I couldn’t have caught up with everybody. I mean, Jason came all the way from Hong Kong and we barely got to talk.

I found it interesting how many people said they didn’t need to ask me anything about my life because I update so much of what happens online. Because of that, I figure this is as good a place as any to thank everybody. People spent tons of time and money to fly in from all over the world. Those people who couldn’t make it here sent checks or called in with donations. I was particularly humbled by people who had never met our friend Chris but donated anyway. Work colleagues, friends from all over the world, and family members…they all sent in money. In the end, we raised thousands and thousands of dollars that will go to help people who need organ donations. In a world full of people who are genuinely bad, I am surrounded by people who are genuinely good. It’s inspirational in a way I can’t rightly describe.

So, I’ll just say thanks. You made the efforts of planning and promoting the event so worth it. I cried Friday night while I remembered my friend Chris, but I’m smiling today at the legacy of friendship and compassion he left behind. It’s one that I suspect will last for a very long time.

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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