Spreading Good Cheer

I-75 and 14th street On-ramp, April 14, 2010

We were heading out of town on a warm April day. We were leaving later than I had hoped- getting everything together for a road trip always takes me longer than I think it will.  We were finally on the road, but as soon as the interstate was in sight we could see that traffic was almost at a standstill.  The kids were already arguing over the “in-flight entertainment” devices.  It was going to be a long day.

After a few minutes of inching toward the on-ramp, my eyes caught the only thing moving… a perky middle-aged black man walking along the line of stopped cars.  A welcome distraction! I rolled down my window. When he got closer to us (we were in the middle lane) I called out- “I have a lunch!”  Without missing a beat, he replied, “Not anymore you don’t!” and flashed a big grin.  He popped over to our car and asked if there happened to be a drink in there.  I answered that there was a Gatorade, but I was sorry to say it wasn’t very cold. He smiled graciously, took the (somewhat crumpled) bag,  and said, “Don’t drive too fast now!”

I didn’t even get the joke for a few seconds, as I basked in his happy attitude.  Then I became gradually aware of where I was…. stuck in a huge traffic jam, with three crabby kids and a long drive ahead of me.  I had literally been transported to a different, much more pleasant, world for those few moments of interaction with the man I had imagined myself to be serving.