By S M Chen, posted Aug 8, 2017 “If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” –Psalm 139: 9, 10
It is one of my scheduled workdays. I work only occasionally and sporadically.
Work is over 115 km away. I must start by 0730 hours, so I leave my house by 0530 to allow for unpredictable traffic.
As I slide into the driver’s seat of my car, I send up a silent supplication for safe passage. I know there are any number of things beyond my control which can adversely affect it.
Once on the road, I turn on classical music and headlights. I continue to be mildly astonished at how many people ply the freeways in early morn. Traffic varies. Sometimes it is light; at other times, heavy. I try to stay focused and in the moment as much as possible. I try to imagine the worst thing that can happen. If I pay attention, perhaps it can be averted.
As I near my destination and the sun slowly chases away darkness, I turn off my lights before the music. There is now only one FM station in southern California dedicated to classical music. I am grateful for it.
I arrive at the designated hospital parking lot and exit the car, making sure I have requisite keys and other paraphernalia. Unlike Lot’s wife, I do not look back. Had I, I might have seen the beginning of something unpleasant.
Some friends and I, as has been our wont, have agreed to meet for dinner. If I depart for home before 1900 hours, traffic can be insufferable. Dinner delays my departure and allows us to break bread together in convivial manner. We now socialize more than when I lived in proximity to work and the husband and I were colleagues.
Upon exiting work to the parking lot, I happen to glance at the tyres of my car. The right rear one is completely flat. It was not that way when I arrived; I would have noticed the car handling differently. But maybe it was just as well. I didn’t have to contemplate a tyre going flat while I attacked the work queue.
I kneel and lightly run both hands lightly over the perimeter of the exposed tyre. I feel no nail or screw. I am quite sure the offending object must be concealed by the part of the tyre that meets the cement parking lot surface.
I text my friend of my predicament. He arrives in his van and helps change the tyre to the small spare which is fortunately inflated sufficiently to use.
When I remove the flat and inspect it, I discover a small hole—perhaps 2-3 mm wide—in the middle of the tread. Like a long-toothed serpent, something bit but did not leave a fang—only a mark.
I am quite sure this tyre, which has considerable tread left, is reparable. But I am not able to get it repaired that night. That is a story for another time.
My friend kindly invites me to spend the night. He and his wife are empty nesters in a lovely, spacious home.
I am loath to attempt the long drive home on the small spare tyre. Not only will I be compelled to drive more slowly than usual, if I get another flat I will indeed be in trouble. My options will be very limited.
Later, after dining at a Chinese restaurant, we break open the fortune cookies that accompany the bill. I can imagine no message better than this: “Your tyre will go flat at a propitious time.”
Of course I do not get this message. What in inside my cookie is different, but, to me, not an improvement on the above.
I am grateful that the tyre went flat when it did. Had it happened earlier, it almost certainly would have delayed my journey to hospital, and I would have been late to work. I envision an unhappy image of my changing my tyre by the side of a busy freeway, speeding vehicles whizzing by at uncomfortably close proximity.
Had it occurred later, I would have had to deal with the flat likely on the shoulder of a freeway, but even worse, under conditions of suboptimal lighting, perhaps darkness. I might have had trouble getting to the shoulder.
Happily, I was able to get the tyre repaired the next day. And good thing, because I was to meet family members later that day at another place 100km away in another direction. Then another 110km drive home still later that night.
There are those who may read this little anecdote and say that I was merely the recipient of good luck. I don’t discount that possibility and admit perhaps I’m making too much of too little.
But I don’t think so.
The little things are, after all, what comprise our days, and, has been observed by writer Annie Dillard, how we spend our days is how we spend our lives.
I know the rain falls on both the just and the unjust.
As country singer and occasional philosopher Dolly Parton once observed, “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta be willing to put up with the rain.”
I don’t pretend to be just. I’m just another pilgrim.
But I also think one of the church founders may have been onto something when, decades ago, she wrote that there is Someone who is prepared to grant our supplications in manner that might otherwise not be granted, did we not ask.
So I will continue to ask, and hope to be smiled upon.
When I am, I will be grateful.
When I am not, I hope to be able to say it is well with my soul and to remember the rain.
S M Chen lives and writes in California.