Sunday, May 16, 2010

Unplanned Events on the Journey

Just as the sun was giving up on the day, we were getting started on our evening's plans as we drove west into its slanting rays. I peeked around the visor only to be confronted by its bloodshot eye staring straight at me as if to make one last point before its departure. But suddenly the stare down I was losing was interrupted by the rapid approach of two brake lights that were threatening to become part of my vehicle's grill. As quick as my Parkinson's would allow I firmly braked. Fortunately, the only substantial effect the disease has had on my driving is making it difficult to keep my darn foot still on the gas pedal. Thankfully, I stopped. However, I had an excellent view of those taillights. Everyone stopped, except the sun, which continued its unhindered and unheeding slow skid toward the distant horizon.

I had chosen the alternate route to avoid the significant traffic backup on the main freeway headed into Vancouver, Highway #1, which was notorious for its congregation of traffic headed to town, as we were, for a pleasant mid-May evening out. I thought the "back way" I had taken was supposed to be relatively clear sailing. That is, until shortly after the rather abrupt stop when we learned from the radio traffic report that an accident had occurred a few miles ahead of where we were lined up. We waited for our turn to get by. Now we were certain to be late.

I had allowed 90 minutes to make it into town, but having left work behind schedule (it was for a good reason, honest!), I had reduced our available travel time by 30 minutes. So instead of taking a leisurely drive into the big city, I was pushing hard on the gas, and then brake pedal, racing from one stoplight to the next. I may have been gaining on other dinner-bound traffic, but this was only by intentionally disregarding speed limits. Oh, and being rather nonchalant about the "concerns" of my attractive passenger. She did not need have said much, as I could tell by the firm grip of her left hand on the dash and the white knuckles of her right hand on the door armrest. She became a living demonstration of why seatbelts are required in vehicles; more to protect against driver of the car you are in than the drivers of other cars.

I wanted to hit the steering wheel and shout at the lineup of cars ahead of me, "I am in a hurry! I do not have time for this." My mind raced to find ways around the virtual parking lot as it dawdled past the accident scene some miles ahead. Nothing. No way to get off the road and around the unplanned disruption. I was angry and anxious at the same time. It was ruining my plan. I was not prepared for this. I should have left earlier! I should have taken Highway #1! I should have been listening to the radio traffic reports ahead of time! I should have anticipated something like this. Why was this happening to me? Why now?

Some 10 minutes later the answer came to me as we crawled past the white Japanese-made sports car that had taken out a rather stable, double posted, highway sign, with both car and sign showing evidence that the fight had not been worthwhile for either of them. I should consider myself fortunate that it was not my vehicle strewn across the highway in pieces. I was inconvenienced. I experienced delay of my plans. My expectations were not being met. But I was not that fellow being carried away in an ambulance.

It struck me then that the traffic jam was much like Parkinson's disease. Unplanned events are bound to occur in life's journey. No one can accurately predict or preempt every potential disruption. Life just does not allow enough margin. Parkinson's slows us down. It is a wake up call, a warning to "drive more carefully", failing which we may end up incapable of going on at all. Sure, PD makes me want to scream sometimes. It makes me angry and anxious all at the same time. It is certainly not what I had planned. But it is teaching me many things. Perhaps for some days yet I will watch the sun plod along its well-worn path, thumbing its nose at my plights and perils. But I will learn patience in response. I will learn there is purpose in all this.


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  2. A few years ago we drove 9 hours to Austin, TX to stay at my brother's house to see a basketball game at UT. We left his house in Georgetown after a snowfall one hour before the game. But the icy streets had caused a semi to jackknife across the road, blocking traffic going into Austin. We had to crawl along. In the end we listened to the first quarter of the game on the radio while stalled in traffic. My brother was so mad at himself for not leaving earlier. Going home the next day back to the Panhandle of Texas, it was horrific, driving 15 mph all the way to Abilene, my son and I decided to spend the night as we slip and slid into Abilene. It's a trip I'll not soon forget. The next day we again slipped and slid the next 5 hours before arriving home, passing many, many cars stuck on the side of the road. I was never so thankful to make it home alive and well.

    Those kind of trips are hard on the nerves but memory making.