Thirteen lights

I was five months old, and it was snowing. My parents were taking me to Johns Hopkins Hospital and had just driven past a sign that read WELCOME TO BALTIMORE. They knew they were racing the clock to get me there, but had no idea how close the race was – it wouldn’t be long until cardiologist Richard Rowe examined me and told my parents that I had hours to live, unless surgery was performed soon.

All that would happen later. At the moment, they had just driven into Baltimore for the first time and had no idea where to go. Yes, Johns Hopkins is located in Baltimore, Maryland, and they knew the street address. But if you don’t have a map and aren’t familiar with the city, that information is almost useless.

Daddy pulled in at an Esso service station, one of those with the words Happy Motoring! above the garage bay. This was 1967; long before the only answer you could get from a convenience store clerk was “I don’t know where that is, I just work here!” Back in those days, service station attendants were actually helpful.

“We need to get to Johns Hopkins Hospital,” Daddy asked.

“Thirteen lights,” the attendant said, pointing. “You’re on the right highway, just keep going. Go through the next thirteen stoplights. At the fourteenth light, turn right. There is a building with a dome, you can’t miss it. That’s Hopkins.”

The guy seemed confident, and daddy decided to follow his directions. Sure enough, the instructions were perfect: Turning right at the fourteenth stoplight, the famous Hopkins Dome was practically in front of them.

According to daddy, the attendant snapped out the directions as if he had done it many times before. How many people had stopped at his station trying to find the hospital? Apparently there had been enough that he had the directions committed to memory.  How many lives had he saved by knowing the answer to that simple question? I wonder if he ever had any idea.

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One Response to “Thirteen lights”

  1. Patients for a Moment: The Fifth Edition « Adventures of a Funky Heart! Says:

    […] host, Steve of Adventures of a Funky Heart!, reaches back in time to highlight an unsung hero in Thirteen lights. He was just an ordinary man in an ordinary job; he probably had no idea how many lives he […]

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