Disaster put problems in perspective

Kevin Wilson

I was back home in Clovis, ready to enjoy my two free hours before Saturday’s work day when I got the call.

“Hey buddy,” my Portales friend said, “did you keep my keys when you went out to my truck for me?”

I checked my pocket, felt keys that weren’t mine and flipped the U-turn back to Portales. Well, that’s 45 minutes gone of my two free hours, I said to myself.

I was back on the highway to Clovis, which was where I met the unavoidable inanimate object that had no place on the highway. I couldn’t get entirely into the other lane, because there was a vehicle coincidentally passing me, but I swerved enough to just brush against the item.

Or so I thought, until I got back to Clovis. This thing that people use called a “fog lamp” was knocked out of commission, and the bumper was beaten up a little too. Lost another 15 minutes or so evaluating.

Take out a few more minutes calling my car’s service department, only to hear, “Actually, we’re closing up in 10 minutes.” I couldn’t tell this guy and his coworkers they’d have to wait to see their families because I needed them to look at a part they wouldn’t have in stock anyway. Frustrated, I just went into the office early.

The shop reopened Monday, and the service manager took a quick look. He sent me to an auto body shop. The body shop manager, who I greatly trust, looked at it, and said, “This tiny broken seal right here will just keep breaking. I’d have to order you a new bumper. Go ahead and consult with your insurance company and we can take care of you from there.”

I consulted them, and by the time my claim was filed, an hour of my Monday morning was gone.

So to sum up, three hours of free time lost, a day without my car down the road, money going to a deductible and my insurance going up … all because something I never use got hit on a trip I shouldn’t have even been taking.

I was about to ask myself, “Why is this whole world against me?” But then I saw a Facebook post from my old journalist friend Gidal Kaiser.

“G-d, please find it in your infinite wisdom and glory to help the people of Cloudcroft overcome this tragedy,” wrote Kaiser, a Bozeman, Mont., Sports writer who formerly did the same for the Alamogordo Daily News.

The link he posted was about Cloudcroft, where a Monday morning fire destroyed two buildings and damaged four others at the 100-year-old Pine Stump Mall. I commented that at least nobody was hurt because it happened so early in the morning.

He sent me an instant message, and I could tell how upset he was over it. We talked about other disasters near him, like the natural gas explosion before he got to Bozeman and the tornado that destroyed Metra Park in nearby Billings (Google those if interested. It would take me five columns to adequately describe them).

I did some local Christmas shopping on Monday, and my co-shopper said she wanted to go to Main Street. As we browsed the antiques, evaluated what was and wasn’t a bargain and bought the bargains, I couldn’t help but think, “These stores are pretty similar to the Cloudcroft stores. What if a whole block of them were destroyed, less than two weeks before Christmas?”

The talk, and the shopping trip, made me realize just how easy it was to replace my bumper, my fog lamp and my deductible. And just how much free time didn’t really matter.

Since Gidal’s words first inspired my moment of clarity, I’ll give him the last words too, via a Tuesday Facebook post.

“Here’s a challenge to all my Facebook friends who live in or near Alamogordo … Cloudcroft suffered a major fire to its downtown business district early Monday morning … six businesses lost … and all were in historic buildings. Want to help? Contact the Cloudcroft Chamber of Commerce at (575) 682-2733, First National Bank at (575) 682-2531 or the Village of Cloudcroft at (575) 682-2411.”