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  • Steve Auth

"Probability Zero"

Gulf Shore Drive, Naples, Divine Mercy Sunday. I see the Peloton speeding toward me again. Smaller today, just three of them. Biking as a very tight group. No time to break to my left to escape their path. Within seconds, they’ll be flying past me at 40 miles an hour and within six inches. A cloud of potentially lethal aerosols. I pull into the cement rain gulley to my right. Not very safe, but probably safer than what is fast descending on me to my left. As they pass me, the same barking voice from a few weeks ago, “Hey buddy! Not very safe what you’re doing there!”

Readers of “All We Need is Love” will recall my last interchange with this apparently oblivious group of bike riders. That time, I was castigated for avoiding them by pulling into the dead center of Gulf Shore Drive, normally risky but not with the present traffic situation. Not a car on the road these Corona-lockdown mornings. My first reaction back then was to scream back at him, but I held back and prayed instead. It took a while, but somehow the Lord helped me push by rancor down at least to my toes, and consider that maybe my biker was simply having a bad day. But let’s face it. That wasn’t exactly a reconciliation. I still harbored some ill will toward this guy.

And all that ill will came bubbling right back up the minute he screamed his latest “advice” to me.

I tried to speed up, to run the Peloton down and give him a piece of my mind. But fortunately, it was gone as quickly as it came. No way to catch it.

So I prayed some more instead. “Goodness Steve, it’s Divine Mercy Sunday! Come on! Let it go!”

What is it about my “ability” to lose my cool so quickly? Even in a world where in-person human interaction-- something we are all made for, created for, and in this Corona lockdown, all very much miss—I somehow managed to get angry inside over a perceived slight. And to make matters worse, over a perhaps hypothetical danger that, at least down here in sunny Naples, was probably no bigger than a 100 to 1 shot. I take those odds all the time in my day job.

A couple of rosary decades later, and I was almost back to my peaceful Sunday Morning self.

But if I can be perfectly honest, not completely…

About an hour later, I had circled around near the Naples Pier, and was following a circuitous route north and west, towards home. I was heading west on Fifth Avenue South, the main restaurant district, mostly now a ghost town. But the Naples Coffee Shop is open for to go orders. As I pass it, pulling in from the west is-- the Peloton. Given their land speed, about 2x what I was doing, I can only imagine how far they’d travelled. I tried doing the math in my head about the probability of my running into them again that morning as we both passed the Naples Coffee shop from different directions, and I lost track of the decimal places. Certainly even lower than catching the Corona from them.

Let’s call it, “zero chance.”

“Incredible coincidence.” Ok, “little miracle.” Or, “It’s Divine Mercy Sunday.” “Excuse me, sirs, aren’t you the gentlemen who passed me on Pelican Bay Blvd. about an hour ago?” Two riders look the other way and head into the coffee shop, looking a bit sheepish. The third, a well-built middle-aged man in his 40’s, stays behind.

“Yes, sir, that was us.”

“And you yelled to me for riding in the rain gulley.”

“Yes, I did. Very dangerous what you were doing there.”

“Aren’t you the same guys that passed me a few weeks back and yelled at me for riding in the center of the road?”

“Yes, I think we were. Another dangerous maneuver you made!”

“Well, thank you very much for the concern and the advice. But I can I give you a different perspective? If you see a guy with all white air under his helmet, wearing professional riding gear, and wearing a facial mask, it’s possible I guess that he doesn’t know the rules of biking and is out on a Sunday morning jaunt for the first time. But, given the way he’s outfitted, isn’t a little more likely that this is not his first bike ride, and that there might be another reason why he’s taking a risk like riding the gulley at 18 miles an hour?”

“I guess so. But what reason could that possibly be?”

“Well, we’re on Corona lock-down. The whole state is. Maybe I’m a little paranoid. Maybe I have a very vulnerable person in my household and I’m overly worried about bringing something back to her. And you guys are out and about riding at high speeds, right on top of each other, no PPE on. You are obviously not worried about this Corona thing, I get it. And maybe you’re right. But from my perspective, you’re carrying a cloud of aerosols in that Peloton of yours. You’re a Corona-accident waiting to happen. And so maybe, this old guy that keeps taking maneuvers that look dangerous is doing so for a reason. Maybe he’s choosing what in his mind is the least of two dangers. He could be right, he could be wrong. But he has a reason. Maybe he’s worried about someone he loves, for instance.”

“Well, I hadn’t considered it that way.”

“I figured you hadn’t. And I appreciate that you were just looking out for me. But next time, please consider taking a few more precautions before you buzz within six inches of what looks like a precautions rider wearing a facial mask.”

“Thanks for telling me that, friend. Be safe.”

“You too. And thanks again for being concerned about me. God Bless you.”

“God Bless you too.”

Reconciliation. Delivered by the Lord. Probability zero. Divine Mercy Sunday. A missionary April 26, 2020


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