I was driving seventy miles an hour on a two lane Tennessee highway in a hurry to get home after taking my son to college, when my inner mind visioned a car coming over the crest of the hill at great speed. I slowed down drastically, and then saw two cars, racing at top speed, come over that hill. Had I not decreased my speed it would have been impossible to avoid a deadly collision. This happened to me other times during my years of driving, and probably saved my life several times.
Once while I was in the army, I was sitting in the trench under the targets on the rifle range. My job, like that of the others down the line, was to pull down the target after a barrage, patch the holes, then raise it for use again. I bent down to tie my bootlace when a round hit a metal strut in the target and riccocheted into the trench wall, punching a hole where my head had been seconds before.
We were on our way back to camp from a remote guard duty post with the jeep so overloaded that we were wedged in like tinned sardines. The vehicle hit an icy spot in the road and tilted up on two wheels where it remained for about two hours in the next sixty seconds. Had it overturned, we couldn't have jumped free, but would have been crushed. Cpl. Yumet, the driver, drove back to the company area, parked the jeep, and surrendered his drivers license. Thereafter, he sought the safety of the back of an army truck when he travelled. I was mentally marked by this fright. I didn't dare tell anybody, but I swear I saw a giant hand reach out, steady the jeep, and return it to all four wheels.
Home from the army, I opened a Television Sales and Repair business. Part of the business was installing antennas. Being busy during the day, I decided to install my own antenna on the roof of the four story building at night. Walking backward, rolling out the cable, I had a sudden impulse to stop. My helper came over with a flashlight, and he and I looked down four floors through an airshaft that was behind me. One more step backward and my only television concern would have been the line definition of that great TV network in the sky.
Another narrow escape came when the roof of the building I was to work on was about four feet above the top rung of my forty foot ladder. Standing on the top of the ladder and bracing myself by holding projections in the wall, I was able to reach the roof edge and pull myself up. Coming down after the installation was complete was a different matter. The overhang was such that I couldn't see the ladder. I sat there a full fifteen minutes, terrified, and wanting to yell down for someone to call the fire department for help. My pride got the better of me and, hanging by my fingers from the ledge, I fished around with my toes for the ladder and was able to climb cautiously down. This must have been a tough call for my guardian angel, because I don't think he could see the ladder, either.
After my first open heart surgery, I began fibrillating while in the recovery room. The recovery room crew did their best, but were giving up when my doctor came into the room. Assessing the situation he barked a command.
"Too late," the attending doctor said, "He's gone."
"I said get it, Goddammit" my doctor roared, "And get it now."
I lay, packed in ice, unable to move, but conscious that it had been a close one.
While recovering at home, my wife would help me out to the patio each morning, where I would sit in a chaise longue and read the New York Times. An enormous grey squirrel would come and sit at the foot of my chair. He never moved, just stared at me with eyes that were in a face more like that of the Dalai Lama than a furry tailed rodent. When I was able to come out by myself, I never saw him again. I told my wife he was my guardian angel, disguised and staying near in case of another emergency. I don't know if I really believe that, but just in case, I'm very nice to any squirrel I meet.
Then there's the incident of the Paul Napoli courts martial. While off duty, Paul, for no apparent reason, savagely beat a young sailor, tore up his pass, and threw his wallet down a storm sewer.
The sailor remembered that his assailant wore MP insignia, so as First Sergeant, I rounded up everyone who even vaguely met the description given by the sailor and accompanied the swabbie through the lineup. He identified Paul. So it was my testimony that convicted him. As we were close, leaving the courtroom, he had a message for me.
"Some day you'll be walking down a dark street and you'll feel a knife blade slipping between your ribs. Remember me, for it will be in my hand." Considering the length of his sentence, I gave little thought to the threat.
Years later, after hearing that Paul had been given early release for good behavior, I was walking down the dark, narrow sidestreets of an inner city when I heard footsteps behind me. When I changed course, they changed course. I realized they were gaining on me and suddenly turned around. I was face to face with an older Paul Napoli.
"I recognized you from your funny walk", he said. "I know a little bar down the street where we can have a drink."