Spring arrived. It was time for a road trip. So, one Tuesday in May Nan navigated Pearl to their usual meeting place. Sue called shotgun. Patty, Maureen, and Lou crawled in fighting for the seat all the way in the back like the cool kids on a school bus. Maureen was the victor. “I’m glad we got tickets. It’s sold out all the time,” Patty said as they got onto the highway.
“Me too,” Lou responded.
“Sharon saw it. She said it’s really good,” Sue said.
“Did you guys say something?” Maureen asked.
Sue turned around and raised her eyebrows at Patty and Lou who were seated in the middle row. Nan looked in the rearview mirror and loudly enunciated, “Just talking about how good the show is going to be.”
“Oh, well, I already knew that,” Maureen said and went back to gazing out the window. The ride continued that way for nearly an hour, with the four up front chatting and Maureen intermittently asking what they were discussing.
“Do you know it’s 10:30?” Maureen suddenly shouted, changing everything.
The route had been carefully planned; husbands had been consulted; MapQuest had been studied. Unfortunately, no one had checked the Department of Transportation website, and Pearl was stuck in bumper-to-bumper highway construction traffic. Siri said their ETA was 11:09, and the show began at 11:00 with no late seating. Once the doors electronically closed, no one was getting in!
Panic ensued as a live game of Beat the Clock began. Nan called her husband; Sue called the theater; Patty and Lou checked Waze, RoadWarrior, INRIX, and any other App that came up in a search. Maureen counted down to 11:00, announcing the time more frequently the closer it got to the theater doors being slammed shut with their group on the wrong side.
At 10:39 they concluded the best option was to take an exit to an alternate route; unfortunately, everyone else on the road had come to the same conclusion. They found themselves still in bumper-to-bumper traffic but on a single lane road going through a small town with a 35-mph speed limit and stoplights at every other corner.
“10:49,” Maureen shouted.
Hope was all but lost. Other than the on-the-minute marking of time, no one spoke. They made their way to the end of town at 10:53. Nan hit the gas and coasted through two stop signs California style.
They swerved into the parking lot at 10:57, pulled into the first available space, and jumped out, careful not to forget Maureen. They raced to the front doors narrowly missing an elderly woman with a walker, but they made it! They presented their tickets at 10:59! All those 5ks they’d done had paid off.
While they were making their way to their seats, the lights went down, and they lost Patty. They still hadn’t found her when everything went black, and the music started. Spotlights hit the aisles following actors and actresses singing and twirling toward the stage. Third from the rear was Patty in her peasant skirt and headband, lip synching a song she’d never heard and happily spinning down the aisle. Breathless she plopped into her seat, “I got caught in the middle of them. It was the only way I could get in.” They were still laughing when Jesus walked on the stage to break up the brawl between Peter and his brother Andrew and James and his brother John. They composed themselves just as the nets hauled in hundreds of fish, and somehow, they remained quiet through the rest of the show.
“That was amazing! I mean how did they get Jesus to actually walk on the water like that?” Nan said.
“I know! How about the part when they had a hundred pigs jump off the cliff into the ocean?” Sue said.
They discussed the performance as they posed for pictures in front of the bronze lion they hadn’t noticed on their way into the theater. By the time they reached Pearl, they were famished and opted to go to the first place that came up on GPS.
It was a good-sized Amish diner with Pennsylvania Dutch home-cooked food served up by women wearing hand sewn long cotton dresses and linen bonnets with a heart-shaped back unique to their sect.
Lou stuffed herself on food that reminded her of her grandmother—chicken pot pie, mashed potatoes, “filling,” (as opposed to stuffing), chicken corn soup, raisin bread pudding, shoofly pie. Nan and Patty shared a sandwich. Maureen ordered soup. Sue had a vegetable plate. Clearly, Lou was the only one who had heard the expression, “YOLO.”
Feeling stuffed as a Build-a-Bear made by a toddler, Lou really wanted to sit in the back seat on the ride home. Everyone was too tired to argue, so she climbed through and situated herself in the middle of the long buttery seat, surveying the others in front of her like a queen appraising her subjects. She just hoped she wouldn’t snore too loudly.
On the way home they talked about the show and discussed plans for their next adventure. No construction slowed them down on the return route, so Nan made good time without breaking any laws.
“See you at the trail in the morning,” Lou said as she walked to her car. She was still sleepy from all the carbs she had consumed at lunch and anxious to get home. She’d just rounded the corner to approach her street when she saw a flashing light in her rearview mirror. At first, she didn’t recognize what it was. “Oh!” the word came out on an exhale. Puzzled, she pulled over to the right.
A nice young man in uniform advanced toward her lowered window. Lou quickly retrieved her registration and insurance cards from the glovebox, but nervously realized her license was in her purse in the backs
“What did I do?” she asked upon his arrival.
“You went through that stop sign.” He gestured backward to the lightly traveled intersection.
“I did?” Lou was dumbfounded. It was the mashed potatoes, or maybe the bread pudding.
“Yep,” he said, “people in the neighborhood have been complaining.”
Lou extended her hand out of the window. “I live in this neighborhood. Here are my registration and insurance information, but my license is in the backseat,” she explained.
“Can you reach it?” he said. She’d already tried that; no she couldn’t.
Officer Barely Out of High School gave her the okay to exit her vehicle to get it, eyeballing her every move. Frantically, Lou searched through her bag, but her wallet was nowhere to be found.
“Oh no! Now I’m really panicking!” she said to the officer over her shoulder. “I can’t find my wallet!” She started to hyperventilate, just a little. She reached across the seat until a belly flop was inevitable. She hoped her wallet had slipped and fallen to the floor of the passenger side, so she buried her head in the floor well, searching. When she realized it wasn’t there, she pushed herself up and leaned over the front seat to see if it had migrated without her knowing.
Officer Probably an Eagle Scout saw the state she was in and really didn’t want to have to file commitment papers this close to the end of shift, so he said, “It’s okay, don’t panic. Calm down. Where did you last have it?”
As beside herself as Lou was, she thought about shouting, “Why do people always say that? It makes no sense! If I knew that, I’d be able to find it!” But, just then she saw a corner of black leather camouflaged between the seat and her hoodie.
“Oh, here it is!” She smiled as she stood to hand it to Officer Varsity Football Captain. Still standing outside of the car, she found she couldn’t control her mouth. “I’m sorry, it’s been a long day. And, and I just saw Jesus.”
Officer Why Did I Choose This Profession took a small step backward. His mouth said, “Well, you can get in your car. I’ll be right back.” His eyes said, “Yep, it’s going to be a long night at the hospital with this nutcase.”
Lou got into her car and broke down. She couldn’t hold back the tears that were surely a product of good Christian guilt, exhaustion, and missing her Grammy.
It seemed like an hour had passed before Officer Boy Next Door leaned down to her window to address her. Shaking his head up and down like one does when speaking to a small child he said, “You’re going to come to a complete stop from now on, right?” Lou nodded.
Her nerves let loose, and Lou sobbed, “I’m 57 years old. I’ve never had a traffic violation.”
“Well, sometimes you just need a reminder from someone like me,” he said kindly.
Officer Someday Policeman of the Year accepted Lou’s heartfelt thanks and strolled toward his cruiser looking forward to having a romantic dinner with his new wife.
It had been a great day.