I’ve been contemplating a post about nature and the connection with my childhood and my current experience of God and such. I’ve spent a lot of time outside these past few months, walking and running and thinking. Thoughts have been connecting and brewing in my brain for a few weeks now, and undoubtedly one day I’ll sit down and it will all come pouring out – pre-written in my head, coming to life on these autobiographical pages.
But that’s not the post I’m writing today. Today, I’m writing about patience – ironically, the topic of last week’s message at my church. I helped design the service and worked with my pastor to record the message on location (my job was to manage cue cards and walk backwards – patiently); patience was a hot topic, one highly considered.
Another point of irony; over the past several days I talked a lot about patience with loved ones who are waiting out the healing process in hospital. Patience is necessary in such situations – a patience that bores deep into your bones, as you are at the mercy of others for everything. You wait for your meals to arrive. You wait for someone to turn off alarms. You wait for professionals to evaluate you and run tests; then you wait for them to tell you what the tests show. You wait to be told that you can leave; then you wait for someone to help you get out of the bed and on your way.
It’s been the topic du jour.
And then it became my reality.
We planned to split my study break time between home and Cleveland; we have a place we can go there that allows me a lot of freedom to read and study and write and think and meet and do all the things that I need to do during this time. It’s a great place for me to be creative; it also happened to be where my husband was. So we connected, planned to spend the weekend there and then return home.
Everything was on track until just north of Winchester, Virginia, when the truck sputtered and coughed and then died. Just died. My handy husband crawled underneath and on top of the engine while I clung to the door handle and prayed that none of the vehicles barreling down the road at 70+ miles an hour would run him over.
Did I mention it was dark?
Unable to find or fix the issue, we called a tow truck. Twenty minutes later – thank you, God – the truck was on a flat bed and I was sitting up high in the cab of the truck between my handy husband and Brad, the Tow Truck Guy. He drove us to his family’s repair shop, and he probably thought we were nuts as he pulled into the parking lot.
This is your place? This is it? No way! You’re kidding! This is your repair shop?
It was right next to Pack’s Ice Cream – a place we stop every.single.trip, because we love ice cream. Pack’s has the best soft serve in the state.
The repair shop shared a parking lot with Pack’s; in fact, on a previous trip, I’d used the rest room at the repair shop. Brad chimed in.
Yep. That’s our place, too. My sister runs the ice cream stand.
Thus began the interesting adventure of How We Tried to Get Home and Almost Bought an Ice Cream Machine.
Brad was great; after unloading the truck, he loaded us and our luggage in his personal vehicle and drove us to the Hampton Inn. He did take the long way into town (Just wanna avoid the interstate highway…), and I confess that on one of the darkened streets in the warehouse district, I wondered if we might be the topic of an upcoming 48 Hours investigation:
(VIRGINIA COUPLE KIDNAPPED AND MURDERED NEXT TO THE APPLESAUCE FACTORY; ROGUE TOW TRUCK DRIVER AND ICE CREAM LOVER UNDER ARREST!)
But Brad’s a good man who just doesn’t like driving on the interstate. He got us safely to the Inn, and we flopped on the bed and watched four episodes of International House Hunters because we don’t have cable and it’s pretty exciting to have unlimited access to HGTV.
For me it is, anyway.
The next day we woke up, observed our surroundings, and remembered that we needed to go to the post office – Syd’s birthday package was still in my bag, and I had four days to get it to New Hampshire. Finding a post office was imperative. Fortunately, there was one right down the street.
“Right down the street” is great, if you have a vehicle. We didn’t. However, there were sidewalks; so I persuaded my husband that a mile-long walk would be good for us. An hour later, I’m not sure he agreed, but we took that walk, and it was good for us, and the package arrived in time.
For the rest of the morning, we waited around for The Call; it came around 11:30AM. The truck problem wasn’t complicated; the part had been ordered and it would be ready to go around 4PM. They’d come and get us.
The Hampton Inn folks are THE BEST; Carly and Brady took our luggage and stowed it in the office; we officially checked out, but just hung out in the lobby for the rest of the day.
The repair was finished. Brad showed up in his car again and took us back to the shop. We paid the bill – very reasonable – loaded our luggage back up, and then went to get ice cream. In the course of conversation, we discovered that the ice cream stand had recently upgraded machines and had decided to sell the still-functional older machine.
My husband’s eyes lit up.
As long as I’ve known him, he’s talked about getting a soft serve ice cream machine. He wanted to put one in the music store, or set up a stand. We’ve even brainstormed names for the ice cream he would serve. The man loves frozen custard.
Was this a sign from God????
Of course, we thought maybe it was; so we entered into a serious discussion and evaluation of the used machine. Due to a variety of circumstances – one being the 500 pound weight of the machine – we decided to go home, think and pray, and then return.
We shook hands all around, climbed in the truck, and headed south.
It started to rain.
Ten miles down Interstate 81, the truck choked. Again. Just like the night before.
This time, it was daylight; but we were on the Weigh Station access ramp surrounded by eighteen-wheelers flying by at the speed of sound.
We called Brad. We watched the northbound traffic pile up and realized that even if we got towed, we were going to have a heck of a time getting back to the shop; traffic was at a standstill.
So were we.
It was still raining.
An hour later, a new tow guy shows up. He gets the truck on the flatbed, tells us he knows a way around the traffic jam, and off we went into the Virginia wilderness. Once again, I figured we’d be abducted and left for dead…but it didn’t happen. In fact, we had a nice conversation and eventually made it back to Brad’s shop…
Which was closed.
But Brad had arranged for one of the mechanics to wait for us. After the truck was unloaded, Wayne drove us back to the Hampton Inn – after a pit stop at the CVS, because I needed a) laundry detergent (we were out of clean clothes) and b) Post It notes.
We thought you guys left?
We did. We’re back.
I did a load of laundry. We went to Five Guys – because it was across the street, and we could walk.
We watched more HGTV and got a good night’s sleep. I woke up early and tried to quell my anxiety, because I was getting pretty much nothing done. Study break time is supposed to be uninterrupted space for thinking and digging deep into some creative time; none of that was happening. My wheels were spinning, I was feeling overwhelmed and out of time, and I had an impending sense of doom. I sat in the lobby in my pajamas, drinking coffee and trying to get some reading done. I watched everybody else come down for breakfast, check out, and leave – continuing their journeys.
Not us. I sat and watched them all head out the door, nursing my coffee and bad attitude. It added to my frustration.
The morning shift girl walked by.
We thought you guys left? You’re back?
The Call came around 10:30; they found the problem. They could fix it, for $500; but it didn’t have to be fixed right away. As long as we didn’t hit The Wrong Switch, we could get home safely and fix it later.
We chose the latter; they said they’d send a guy over with the truck.
I ran upstairs to take a shower and pack my stuff. An hour later, the guy showed up.
I drove it around for a while. Forty minutes or so. Just wanted to make sure you guys didn’t get stranded again. The truck’s fine.
We loaded up our stuff, drove the mechanic back to the shop. Went in to settle up and got a bill for $0; they covered it all, from the second tow to the mechanic’s time.
We decided against ice cream and headed out of town. The truck ran fine. We stopped at Dairy Queen because my husband changed his mind; he needed his ice cream fix.
And then we made it home.
I learned a lot in those two days. When we were finally safely on our way home, I uncorked and starting sharing my anxiety verbally. My husband – full of wisdom and patience – poked and prodded and helped me dial everything back to a manageable level of normal. The Post It notes helped, too…
I learned what it was like – just for 24 hours – to not have a car. Want to run to the drug store? Too bad; it’s two miles away. And it’s raining. Want to go get something for dinner? Your choices are limited, and most of them are fast food. Unless you feel like walking three miles. In the rain.
I learned, most of all, what it’s like to encounter good people who care about doing a good job and simply being kind to others. Brad Omps and his family business – top notch. The second issue with the truck was not their fault – but they took full responsibility. They took care of us, too. And they were kind every step of the way.
(Plus, they have ice cream…)
The Hampton Inn people? Friendly, caring, understanding that we didn’t really want to be there – so they made us feel at home as much as possible. They gave us toothbrushes and toothpaste, and they made us laugh.
My husband? Simply the best.
Mostly, I learned this: It’s fine to talk about patience in theory, or in a church service. It’s another thing to live it out in real time, and to accept that every meeting can be cancelled, every deadline can be missed, because Things Happen. It’s how you handle those things that makes a life. I encountered quite a few people in 48 hours who are living that out in a way that matters.
And I’m grateful.
Highly recommended if you need a tow or mechanic work in Winchester: Omps Garage.
Packs Ice Cream
Hampton Inn North Conference Center