Yesterday was one of the most memorable days of my life, and nearing its end I praised Jesus for a bathroom like never before. I do not mean this with any hint of sarcasm or irreverence. I mean I praised Him from the bottom of my heart.
On Tuesday, I rear-ended someone and since my minivan was almost nine years old with more than one-hundred-thirty thousand miles, we decided it was time to put her down. I spent much of yesterday morning surfing the web for deals, reading minivan reviews, talking to my insurance people, calling my friend, Tea, at the Honda dealership (who has almost sold us a new Odyssey on two different occasions), and crunching numbers. Yesterday also happened to be our friends, the Bradshaws, last day in the DC area. Since they lived less than a mile from us, we will miss them tremendously. Their son, Jackson (8), is the perfect in-between buddy for Will and Nate. They have played together for years, but they have solidified their great love for one another recently with a mutual obsession over footballs cards and a never-ending discussion of who is or will be in the Hall of Fame.
The big boys went out to lunch with the Bradshaws and Sam and I stayed home until Will got home from work at about 1:30pm. Then I took the banged up minivan to the repair shop, where they essentially said, “yes, no one would fix this.” I could’ve just left it there, but I decided, “heck, it’s not even three o’clock, I’ll take it and go look at the Sienna before I go get the Odyssey.” So I drove the smashed up, light dangling van to the Toyota dealership up the road. Now, it was supposed to start snowing like at 4pm and Will had to be at work at 7pm. And I was maybe six miles from home. So I drove the Sienna, decided on the Sienna (based on these factors: 90% price; 9% placement of USB (it’s inexplicably in the glove compartment on the Odyssey); 1% it’s better looking than the Odyssey (it goes without saying that all minivans are hideous so I’m talking about a very slim preference).
I called my brother-in-law, Bob, to run the deal by him, and with his expertise behind me I felt good about the decision. Yet by the time the paperwork was done there was three inches on the ground and it 5:20 pm. Since Will had worked all morning and was working overnight, he was napping with Sammy through all this minivan buying. I then decided I did not want to drive the brand new minivan home because it was looking bad out there and DC drivers are notoriously bad in anything less than pristine conditions. So my salesman, being a saintly man, and not guessing all that he was signing up for, agreed to take me home. We just needed to drop the old minivan off at the “repair” shop, it’s final destination.
Fahim and I headed out. It took forty-five minutes or so to travel the two miles to the repair shop and although things looked pretty bleak, I still had not a clue what was about to happen. I got in the car with Fahim and talked to Will on the phone.
“Geez oh Pete’s! This is ridiculous. I might have to meet you at work.” And after a few more minutes it was clear that Will would need to pack up the boys and head to work (three miles from home), and Fahim would take me there instead, which would be a little closer for him too. After another half hour or so we ended up in front of a Chick-Ooh-Lay. Fahim was hungry and I was thirsty, so we hit the drive-thru. I ordered plenty of food for my whole family.
For hours, we mostly did not move. When we turned off Route 50 and rolled continuously for more than three feet, it was euphoric. But then we turned on Route 29, and I was starting to feel sort of panicked, and the more we sat there the more it felt like it would never end, that I would never, ever get out of Fahim’s car. Stopping at Chick-Ooh-Lay, is always, always the right choice (see this post from last Friday), but drinking a large Diet Coke when you are stuck in traffic with someone you’ve never met for hours and hours is questionable. For most of the trip I felt like I was about to wet my pants. As I sat there with Fahim, Lisa Nowak’s planning seemed brilliant and entirely reasonable. Fahim offered to pull over, to somehow park the car to ensure privacy. As much as I wanted to, I just couldn’t bring myself to do that.
Finally as we exited the Beltway back onto Route 50 and merged up to Gallows, I just could NOT TAKE ANOTHER SECOND OF IT. We were stopped and it was clear we were going to be stopped for another twenty minutes or so. Beside us were stores — a Starbucks even. What separated us was a wall about four or five feet high and a fence on top the wall. The fence was probably six feet tall. I decided that I had to exit Fahim’s car, scale the wall, climb the fence and use the bathroom awaiting me on the other side. It looked daunting but I could not sit there one more minute. So I hopped out and as I examined the fence, I saw an opening. Yes, it was not big, but I could surely squeeze through. Now, all I had to do was scale the wall. Ah, but it was hard (and oh by the way, it was blizzard conditions at that time and I had no coat, no hat and no gloves). I prayed, please God let me be able to climb this wall, and then I spotted a street sign that had sort of a tri-pod like base near the wall. Perhaps I could use that as leverage to climb the wall. It worked perfectly. Ahh, what victory to be on top of that wall! But now I was about twenty-five feet from the opening in the fence. So I had to scoot along the wall, hanging on to the fence to make my way over to the opening. (I need to go take pictures of this!).
I squeezed through the opening and praising Jesus (literally) every step of the way I walked over to Starbucks. Just as I was approaching the power flicked off, and Starbucks was already closed anyway. But next door was Pho Cyclo (a Vietnamese restaurant the boys and I like). I entered, covered in snow like some kind of deranged loon, and proceeded through the dark restaurant toward what would surely be a pitch black bathroom. But the lights came back on halfway there, and a bewildered waiter asked, “Take out order?” I just mumbled something like “oh, on the way out, on the way out!”
And I did order a Thai iced tea on my way out, because I had to order something! Then I met up with Fahim again in the parking lot (and he must have wondered why in the world after all that did I have a new beverage in hand!). I retrieved the Chick-Ooh-Lay from his car and bid him adieu. We’d spent more than three hours together talking about everything from faith to the NFL, from having kids to having heart attacks, from vocations to vacations, and I was totally awed by his patience and grace. So please let me know if you are in the market for a new Toyota!
Then I walked to Will’s work from there, which is really just a matter of crossing a parking lot and a single street — although it did seem a little longer without a coat. Will and the boys arrived at about 10:30pm — it had taken them nearly four hours to go three miles. The four of us slept in his office, while he worked. It was like a bring your family to work night for the nocturnally employed.
The Bible says “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). I’ve never given thanks for a bathroom like I did for Pho Cyclo’s. I’ve never given thanks for being able to greet my family after a three mile trip like I did last night.
The snow is already melting yet may my heart of gratitude not soon fade!