Monday, May 12, 2014
So, anyway, sometimes when we go to town (sounds so Depression-era, doesn't it?) we take gravel. It's faster, even though stones up the wheel wells get old and you can't keep the dust off the back of the car. But then, both of ours are old, not decrepit, just old.
Friday I got to thinking I was late, so I took the gravel four miles straight north to the blacktop, then west to town. It was windy (what else is new?) and I was in the Tracker which isn't much more than a motorcycle engine aboard a tin can. I'm no Iowa farm kid so keeping the Tracker from fishtailing on loose gravel isn't something that comes naturally, which means I was floating along dangerously, trying to make time because I fashioned myself late.
I'm going to walk in the graduation ceremony at the college, I'm emeriti, hence a guest, and I know I'm going to have to hike a country mile once I park the Tracker because the campus is going to be, like always, full of people. I don't want to be late, but neither do I want to end up in the ditch. At the same time, I'm feeling guilty because if I'd have started earlier, I'm telling myself, I wouldn't have to fly. What a cocktail!--fear and guilt on gravel.
Suddenly it hits me. I've been a ton of places in the world where I wouldn't be racing down gravel at breakneck speed just to get to something on time. Seriously. I've been places where church start a half hour late because nobody gets there on time because most people don't "keep time" like a chapel full of Dutch Calvinists. Just one of the enemies in Walden is the clock, after all, because Thoreau says its infernal tick-tocking runs our lives, and it does.
I'm risking life and limb because I can't be a minute late. I know good people who'd say that's flat out nuts. So I'm angry too, on top of everything else. That's another blasted ingredient in this potent mix.
No matter. I'm in Sioux County, Iowa, so I keep the pedal to the metal.
But then maybe I'm just getting old.
Not long ago I got to an appointment with the heart specialist right on time. I walked into the office, signed in, and was directed to the waiting room, which was so full that I took the very last chair, sat down, crossed my legs, looked around, and texted my wife, telling her it would for sure be a while.
Immediately--I mean just that fast--a nurse calls out my name: "Mr. Shaap."
Nobody else moves. It's got to be me.
I stand up and figure every last person in that waiting room hates this Mr. Shaap. I would.
Once we're out of ear shot, I shake my head. "You just made a couple dozen enemies," I tell her. "That room is full, and I'm the one who just got here."
She rolled her eyes. "They're all old people," she says. "They all got here an hour early."
I'll have you know I parked relatively close on Friday, closer than I thought I would, in fact. I carted my cap and gown over, even went to the wrong place for en-robing, and was directed across the street to the mezzanine floor of the chapel, where I put on the glorious trappings of academia, and stood there, at least ten minutes early, waiting.
Just like an old guy.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 6:32 AM