I’ve written about inspiration before, about finding it everywhere, often in the last place you’d expect and that was especially true for me last Friday evening. As I drove home from work, my radio on full blast, the air conditioning humming away, I sat mired in heavy highway traffic but happily preoccupied with the noise of my own thoughts, and the clatter of sounds in my own car. I was deaf to the world beyond my small space until the stream of slowly moving traffic suddenly stopped, and my attention was abruptly forced to the road ahead. I could see that just 4 cars ahead of me, the cars had inexplicably come to a complete standstill. I craned my neck to see but the road just beyond the now stalled traffic seemed free and clear, no accidents visible, no debris, no wailing sirens, nothing to explain our sudden halt. I moaned to myself at the unexpected delay. All 4 lanes, filled with rush-hour traffic, were at a dead-stop, and all of us peered intently through the glare of our sun-streaked windshields trying to unravel the mystery. Finally, the cars ahead of me edged slowly to the barriers at the side of the road and moved beyond whatever had stopped us. As my turn came, and I moved ahead, I spied a car sitting sideways and straddling 2 lanes, and a banged-up motorcycle lying in the road. I glanced about quickly. Had this accident been here for a while, I wondered. And then I saw him, a man lying in the road. With a growing realization that there had just been a terrible accident, I guided my car in front of the motorcycle and jumped out to help. I’m a nurse, an ED nurse at that, and it seemed the only possible response. Only 1 man, another motorcyclist was there. I quickly ascertained that the injured man was not only stable but ready to get up and leave. My only job would be to convince the young victim to stay and wait for assistance. His friend had already called 911, but with the now hopelessly snarled traffic, there would most certainly be a delay in the arrival of help. It wasn’t long before an off-duty policeman stopped and set up a perimeter and began to direct traffic, and when the ambulance finally arrived, I was no longer needed, and I left for home, the events of the last half hour ringing in my mind.
And then I realized – my serendipitous highway adventure, filled with drama and momentary chaos, was the perfect backdrop for a scene in my third novel. Once home, I put pen to paper and quickly jotted the details of the event, careful to catch it all before it faded from my memory.
Inspiration really is everywhere and sometimes it quite literally just falls into your lap. I was reminded again to follow that old adage to write what you know, but know enough to look and listen and remember it all for even the smallest moment just might provide you with that image you’ve been searching for.