This past weekend, I took my stepdaughter to Chicago for camp. We’d had an incredibly lucky drive up (no traffic, killer parking spots, even a tasty lunch) that culminated in arriving at our hotel to find, a), free parking and WIFI, b), an unexpected outlet mall nearby and, c), a Giordano’s pizza restaurant a short walk away. So upon embarking home the next day, it was with a mild sense of doom. I knew, after all, that if there were a luck bank, I had maxed out my account the day before. And the only way to fill it back up was with bad luck installments.
But I started my drive, listening to the Google maps man tell me where to go. Gabrielle has set it up so his voice has an Australian accent, which the day before had been so incredibly charming I had developed a bit of a crush. But while on Lake Shore Drive, Paul Hogan started directing me to take Interstate 55 headed to St. Louis. This seemed troubling already, but then I learned I-55 was under construction and I was to follow a detour. This, of course, made Paul go ballistic, and he kept telling me to make U-turn after U-turn.
I finally made it onto I-55 and, suffering from a massive brain fart, Paul promptly guided me back into the city, landing me on Martin Luther King highway. For a while I just kept driving, not sure of what to do. Then I saw another interstate sign, one for I-94, and the number seemed vaguely familiar. On a whim, I took the ramp and learned I was headed in the direction of Indiana. You know you’re not in great shape when you’ve been reduced to just heading to the right state, never mind where in that state you might be going.
Paul recalibrated though and led me onto another highway and finally onto I-65 South toward Indianapolis. It had taken us an hour and a half, but we were finally headed toward home.
Not so fast though because 20 miles into 65, I crested a hill to find a sea of traffic at a standstill. I hazily remembered seeing this from the other direction the day before, briefly pitying the poor suckers locked in the knot before breezily passing by with a wink and a smile. Now I was one of those suckers.
But. I would not let my temper get the best of me. Instead I would calmly let this bad luck pile up to replenish my account. So I listened to the podcasts Gabrielle had downloaded for me. If you haven’t heard of the show “Serial,” I highly recommend it. And I sure got to listen to plenty of episodes, because for the next three hours construction kept me rolling at an average pace of 30 miles per hour.
Often we were stopped altogether, and I had time to look out at Indiana and contemplate. I tried to remind myself that, while this did both suck and blow, there were plenty of worse things that could happen. So I focused on the beauty around me. I stared at trees and fields and windmills and the grit on the side of the road and felt the same affection I always feel for Indiana. There is something so honest about that state. If Kentucky breeds fast horses and pretty women, Indiana seems like it raises good teachers and people with strong backs.
There is a point though that meditation and podcasts get you only so far. By hour four, I was still 70 miles north of Indianapolis, Indianapolis before four hours away from home. And the bulk of the traffic was caused by the highway being reduced to one lane. When we had finally all assembled into it though, including the jerks who speed up to the front and rely on the mercy of people to let them in at the last minute, we drove exactly one mile to discover that the highway opened up again. But no construction was taking place on the lanes that had been closed.
It’s times like these you get the impression that the person controlling the puppet strings has a dark sense of humor.
By the time I got to Kentucky, I’d like to think my bank account had been restored. I had ketchup on my shirt from the Wendy’s burger and fries I’d hastily eaten from my lap. My hair was frizzy to the point of looking like a joke. My feet needed a good wash. I was out of podcasts. I had two and a half hours left.
But the road, it was clear. The night, it was warm. And home was a gift.