SOMETHING ABOUT NOTHING by Julie Seedorf- Published the week of July 13 in the Albert Lea Tribune and The Courier Sentinel
I dread driving in winter on icy roads. I look forward to summer and the ease of hopping in my car and visiting whatever community my heart tells me to visit. It doesn’t take hours longer to get somewhere because I don’t have to drive slower because of the ice.
Tuesday I rode to a meeting in the Twin Cities with an acquaintance. Our time was tight because of work schedules. We knew how far we had to go and we knew how long it should take us.
It is amazing how much we anticipate summer roads but forget about road construction to fix roads, so our travel — when construction is completed — results in better roads. The freeway was somewhat empty that day. We were within a mile of our freeway exit before we hit the back up traffic from road construction. It was almost at a standstill. We checked the time; we were still early.
Remember, I said this person was an acquaintance I had only met once and shared only a few words with. Before I got in the car I wondered what we would talk about. We had writing in common, but this person has fame under his belt. I figured the ride was only about 45 minutes so we should be able to find enough nothing to talk about for 45 minutes. I hadn’t counted on a traffic jam.
As we edged to the exit we had pretty much covered the weather, the traffic and the little unimportant details of our lives. We concluded I was the chatty one and he was the silent one. I have a tendency to rattle on when I am nervous. We reached the exit. It was closed. Now here is where the glitch came in. We knew only one way to get to where we were headed and that way was closed.
Since the acquaintance was driving, he said to me, “Do you know where we are going?” No one that knows me well would ever ask me that question, but of course this was an acquaintance who would not know that I never know where I am.
I pulled out my phone with the handy GPS and we got directions. I had to fumble through my Facebook to find the exact address on the invitation. We knew where we were going but we didn’t know the exact address. We knew how to get there taking the closed exit, and we knew we would recognize the building when we saw it. However, now we were in uncharted territory, trusting the GPS on my phone to get us there through unfamiliar streets and neighborhoods.
Mr. GPS told us to take the next exit. We followed the instructions on my GPS and wondered as we traveled our newly-charted course whether we should trust my phone. Finally we saw the building, but couldn’t figure out where the parking lot was. After a few wrong turns and missteps we parked in the parking lot of the building where we were supposed to be. Yes, we were 15 minutes late for the meeting, but at least we were there.
We entered a library. We rushed into the building and didn’t know where to go. We had to ask for directions. Our conversation while entering the building centered on the fact we didn’t have time to read much anymore. We asked for directions to the room for the meeting, and we missed reading the sign right in front of our faces giving us directions to the meeting. Lack of reading time could be why I am lost so much, I can’t even read directions.
I must admit — the GPS and being direction-challenged broke the ice in the art of conversation between acquaintances.
I remember another time in my life where I was paired to work with someone in a volunteer position and I was feeling shy about it — I know it is hard to believe that about me. It might be a secret but the loudest people are occasionally the shyest, and loudness is a cover for insecurity. What I found out was I would have missed a good friend if I had let my insecurities keep me from volunteering to work with this person.
The meeting was over and I no longer wondered what kind of conversation I would have with this acquaintance on the way home, because this acquaintance, somewhere in the traffic jam, had become a friend. I am not sure without the traffic we would have had the time to talk about the somethings in our lives rather than the nothings.
The next time I am in a traffic jam I will be patient. Instead of being anxious about my destination I will engage in conversation with my car mate and not be anxious about the delay. If I am by myself I will take the time to listen to music or be alone with my thoughts. I might learn something about myself.
One other little tidbit I have learned this summer: I am always lost when driving. My GPS on my phone always gets me to my destination one way or another. I never know where I am or what it is leading me to when this happens. Somewhere along the way there is always a fun surprise. I may be lost, but what I find, occasionally takes my breath away.
“Anytime I feel lost, I pull out a map and stare. I stare until I have reminded myself that life is a giant adventure, so much to do, to see.” — Angelina Jolie