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Turning on a dime

Published January 02. 2010 09:00AM

My Dad always said, "Life turns on a dime." I really didn't understand what he meant when I was young, but now I do. The 'dime' reference comes from a saying involving excellent cars - the kinds that have a tight turning radius.

Since 10 cents is the smallest American coin, "turning on a dime" became the catch phrase for cars and other vehicles that are judged by their responsiveness and ability to change course very quickly in a very small space. Anyone who has ever watched a car chase from the "Bourne Identity" movies will know what it means.

Dad never owned an expensive car in his life. However, he admired them. At times he would work as a chauffeur to make extra money and he had the opportunity to drive some high-class vehicles. During college summers, I got a job at Shawnee Inn as a waitress. To make additional tip money and because I was one of the few who could drive stick shift (Thanks to my Dad's teaching), I also worked in the parking lot, ferrying guests' cars from the check-in entrance into the lot. There were times when I found myself behind the wheel of million dollar rides. Whenever I told Dad the name of a sports car I had driven, he smiled and was envious.

Life can change course rapidly. My Dad was on his way home from work on a cold and icy March morning in 1968 when he was killed in an auto accident. My whole world turned on a dime.

My grandfather was in our kitchen playing ball with our dog when he reached for the ball, fell out of his chair and died of a heart attack on our kitchen floor. Our family's elder was gone in a heartbeat.

A friend's husband suffered a massive fatal heart attack. In a few minutes, her whole world changed direction.

People close to me have heard that dreaded diagnosis - cancer. Their lives are forever altered- and even if cured, their day-to-day existence shifts focus.

Someone takes a pregnancy test and finds out that forevermore she will be responsible for another human life. Nothing makes your life turn on a dime more than that awesome and humbling news.

Or, perhaps a pregnancy is abruptly cut short by nature. All the planning and expectations are dashed. The promise of a future child is not fulfilled.

Folks who have won the lottery for big bucks say that their lives have changed drastically in an instant. Going from poor to rich must be a culture shock.

People caught in an earthquake, tsunami, fire, or terrorist attack can attest to the fact that their lives are never the same after the incident.

I suppose all of my readers can think of how their own "turning on a dime" took place. Surely, we must be flexible to deal with sudden change.

Let's try to imagine that we are a Rolls Royce or a Porsche and that we can deal with life without getting whiplash.


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