Is it humanly possible to leave the house on time when going to the airport?
I’m beginning to think not.
Yesterday only served to support this suspicion of mine. Planning to leave at 4:00 PM exactly, we pulled out of the driveway when when the clock was threatening to turn 4:15. The cause for our tardy departure was sentimental. We were savoring one last tea-time on the porch with my sister as an unmarried woman before sending her back to the UK.
Tea was sipped. Words were shared. Smiles were many. Dad checked his watch often.
And so, with a bustle the Girl’s Club (ie: me, my sister and my mother) were off!
Truth be told, we were not worried. We had more than three hours before Sarah had to get on her plane, and we were enthusiastic to savor a few more stress-less moments with our Sarah, driving through the vast Colorado mountain plains. What could go wrong?
Well, it started with the freeway coming to a complete stop a mere three minutes after we merged.
Having endured this test of patience, we drove hopefully towards…
Another complete standstill.
The frustrating thing about traffic is that all you can do is fruitlessly beg your mobile apps to provide a non-existent alternate route, wonder why that white car won’t pull just a little bit closer and not hold up the whole lane, bewail the state of US highways, adjust the air-conditioner, wish you had gotten more gas, and wait. And wait. And wait.
And, also play music.
I attempted to sooth our carnal frustrations with tuneful distractions. Soothed by the gentle croonings of Lewis Watson, we hardly noticed the angry clouds forming ahead.
First there were rain drops.
And then there was rain.
And then the sky was yellow.
And then Sarah was forcefully driving against the wind that was doing its bully best to steer us off the road.
And then it was tumble-weeds smacking our wheel wells like we were in some gosh darned wild west movie.
And then there was an earthquake, but the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake… I kid. There was no earthquake. But I would not have been surprised.
We considered pulling over, but pressed on watching the clock nervously.
Finally, we reached the stop for British Airways.
With lumps in our throats, we lugged suitcases and took windblown selfies with unparalleled verve, thinking this was our last few moments together, because our ridiculous car ride was over.
Sarah, carrying her wedding dress as a carry on, and all her worldly possessions in two massive bags weighing 49.9999999 pounds, needed a bit of help in, so I happily obliged. Bumbling through the automatic door, we were greeted with an almost humorous site: long lines of disgruntled passengers waiting at the British airways gate. With what looked like a thousand suitcases in tow, dozens of people glared at the attendants while the attendants glared at computer screens. Sarah and I joined the line. And waited. And waited. And dropped one of her suitcases on a stranger. And waited and waited. For 45 minutes.
Turns out the whole British Airways computer system was down. Of course.
Shaking more with adrenaline than emotion, we waved our Sarah goodbye as she and auspicious garment bagged wedding dress traipsed down the security checkpoint.
Beleaguered, my mother and I picked our way back to the car, which, I might add, was parked in the very last row. We went on our way, pulling over as the storm threatened to blow us away. We got two donuts and watched the storm roll in. This was quite pleasant.
Back on the road, the weather took a sudden turn for the sunny. This would have been very pleasant except for the fact that the sun began to set right at eye level with the highway. My mother drove as my license has recently expired. My mother used to be legally blind, and while I admire her for the bravery and care with which she drove, we were once again forced to pull off the road.
This time we drove along curving back roads, where the sun was obscured by trees and buildings. The going was slower, but at least there was not imminent danger of hitting a poll without warning because the sun was so bright. And we even stopped to get take-out Italian.
On the road for one last homeward push, we were hardly surprised to discover that the freeway had six miles of standstill traffic. Managing to exit the freeway, we wound our way through backroads, playing aching (and loud) celtic music, and munching on the bread from the take-away Italian. All things considered, it was a pleasant… if long… drive.
By the time we got back it was 9:30 PM.
A usually 2 hour round trip took us 5 hours and 15 minutes.
To me, our airport escapade felt like a microcosmic representation of my life. So often life is more inconvenient and more difficult than we could have imagined. Everything takes longer than we want or hope it will. Obstacles surprise us, and just when we think they’re gone another appears. Storms make it hard for us to see, and we wonder if we’ll ever make it. Emotion is mixed with urgency. Perhaps most of all… Life is just not at all in our control.
I used to have this idea that I would feel peaceful just as soon as the next “thing” was out of the way. I would settle and be happy when there was time. I would be thankful when there was no longer anything to cry about. But life and the Lord have taught me that if I wait to love, be joyful, or be purposeful until the air is clear and there’s no traffic, I will be waiting for the rest of my life. I am not guaranteed tomorrow, or even the next moment. To live well is to greet each moment face-on and ready to laugh.
There will always be traffic, but only you can decide to put on music.
Or eat donuts.
Or find take out Italian food.
Or laugh wildly at the madness of your life.
Or squeeze your loved one’s shoulder just because they’re there.
A wise old wizard once said, “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if only one remembers to turn on the light” (Rowling).
Traffic, storms, lines, broken computers… they’ll always be around. But will you remember to put on music?