Life's little delays can be blessings in disguise

April 27, 2000|By MEG H. PARTINGTON

If there's one thing that makes me crazy, it's delays.

cont. from lifestyle

When we're planning an outing with people and they show up late, it really pushes my buttons. If I plan my evening around getting home at a certain time and end up in a stream of brake lights on Interstate 81, I can feel my precious time sinking into my stomach.

Imagine my surprise when, on a recent vacation in California, I learned that delays can be precious gifts.

On the second full day of our visit, my husband and I trotted down the road in our rental car on a journey to the Salton Sea. We were curious to see this body of saltwater looming amid the cactus and sand in the desert of Riverside County.

After driving along several miles of desolate roadway, we spotted the sea, an eerie presence that drew us to its banks. And to our first delay.


My husband, John, shut his car door, and as I started to shut mine, he gasped, "Don't shut it!" after realizing that the keys were still in the ignition. Too late.

Luckily, we had just passed a fire station.

A pair of jolly firemen quickly got us out of this embarrassing situation, though not subtly. Since they rarely get calls at the remote station, they took this opportunity to put on their bright yellow jackets and hop in the cab of Engine 41, which they drove the whopping 1/4 mile down the road to rescue us. At least they didn't turn on the siren. ...

The moment when the lock on the driver's side door finally rose to meet us, the panic I felt melted into warmth as I saw the spirit of kindness reflected in their beaming smiles.

And the walk to the fire station gave my husband and me time to reminisce about the time I locked the keys in my car at my OB/GYN's office and had to be rescued by a guy driving a huge wrecker.

We laughed - something we hadn't had time to do in weeks.

Yet another delay

Delay number two came two days later, at the Mexican border.

My brother, niece, husband and I trekked into Rosarito to shop for some trinkets and view the Pacific Ocean. After a few hours of peddlers trying to woo us into buying everything from silver jewelry to stained glass, we were ready to head back to our hotel in San Diego. Then came the brake lights, the all-too-familiar wave of red I'd seen far too many times at home.

Of all the 20-some lanes that were open, ours happened to be the one containing the vehicle whose driver was arrested for trying to bring back to California something he shouldn't have.

Though a bit frustrating, that 90 minutes in line gave me something I don't normally have - time with my brother, Hudson, the Californian. We were able to catch up on life's happenings and reconnect as a disco CD that only we could love provided background music.

After five days filled with sightseeing and sun, it was time to depart from the Palm Springs airport and head home. As we said our goodbyes, we heard the words that freeze travelers' hearts: Our flight was delayed two hours because of nasty weather in Chicago, our first destination on the return trip.

Thankfully, my brother chose to stay with us during our wait, saving us from pacing the airport and thumbing through ridiculous magazines to pass the time.

That delay gave me more morsels of time to savor with this sibling whose path I usually only cross every two years or so. In that short span, I was reminded of his humor and heart, just a few of his characteristics that geography prevents me from enjoying more often.

Next time I'm stuck in traffic, I'll turn up the disco on my car radio and smile, indulging in the memories that only can be cherished in a delay.

Meg H. Partington is a Staff Writer at The Herald-Mail.

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