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A day of close calls - Shannon Jenkins

Waiting for your friends at a movie theater can be a humbling experience.

On Sunday I drove to Atlanta to catch a matinee with friends from Gwinnett County. Atlanta is somewhat of a halfway point.

And on the 35-or-so-mile trip up there, I passed a wreck on the side of the highway and a stalled car on the highway. Despite the traffic from both vehicles, I still managed to get to the theater on time. Of course, my miraculous punctuality is not the point.

I go inside and call my friends. They're stuck in traffic. So I purchase three tickets and wait inside. Minutes start to tick by. As a person who can't bear to be late, I can assure you this is painful. Two minutes before the show is scheduled to begin, I call my friends. Traffic is still crawling. They're not going to make it in time.

So I talk with a manager, and tell him my friends are stuck behind what must be a bad wreck. He gives me tickets for the next show time. Mental breakdown avoided. Thanks Al Green. Yes, the manager's name was Al Green. And before we part ways, Mr. Green tells me that the wreck is indeed a bad one. Word spreads quickly, apparently.

As I wait, I notice an older couple dotting around the lobby. The man is quite focused - the woman on the verge of tears. I cut my eyes at them now and then, wondering what's happening in their lives.

Later I overhear a manager say something about a lost kid. If my wait was unbearable, I can only imagine what those precious pasting minutes could mean to this couple. My imagination runs wild, and I just know a kidnapping has taken place. I'm a drama queen, I know. I say a quick prayer for these people and hope I'm wrong.

Finally my friends arrive, and my life is back to normal. We have plenty of time for the next show. As we're waiting in line, the kid turns up. Once on the verge of tears, the woman is now obviously frustrated with the pre-teen. But I'm thankful all the same. It could have been worse.

After our movie and dinner, I return to my home south of Atlanta. I cruise the Internet for an idea for this column, and I notice a story about a fatality on I-85. A person was killed. The driver's car was crushed under a tractor trailer and burned.

I can't help but wonder how often we are tied to close calls and tragedies. I wonder if the people around me in that theater noticed the grandparents looking for their grandson. Did they shrug it off and turn their attention to the cost of popcorn? Did someone else whisper a quick prayer as I had? Did a mother hold her child's hand a little tighter, just to make sure he's there? Were the people stuck in traffic cursing for their lost time? Or were they hoping no one was hurt? At one point in our lives, we're all spectators in someone else's misfortune. And the big question is - how will we react?

Shannon Jenkins is the education reporter for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at sjenkins@henryherald.com or (770) 957-9161.