Tuesday, November 30, 2010
I was with my cross country team at a big regional race down in Charlotte, NC. The kids were excited. This trip had become a tradition for many. Although it was not a required event, about fifteen of them chose to give up a full day of Black Friday shopping, opting instead for a bumpy and boisterous bus ride and an overnight stay. I have to admit; I was not fully committed to the adventure. I was exhausted from having out-of-town guests for over a week and had given up highly anticipated plans to attend my 35th high school reunion and visit my mom in Pennsylvania. But the kids begged and I relented, not wanting them to miss an opportunity to end the season in style.
The trip went well on the way down, arriving at our hotel without difficulty. We also successfully managed to find the race headquarters to pick up race numbers as well as directions to the event site. Our next goal was to visit the course before nightfall to familiarize ourselves with the paths and stretch our legs in a light run. Easy enough.
Easy enough if we could find the right road. Somehow, we missed a key turn, extended a fifteen minute trip to forty-five and practiced the fine art of U-turns, most of them legal. After jogging the course in the deepening dusk, we climbed back onto the bus, wanting very much to get refreshed and find dinner. I was somewhat melancholy, mindlessly gazing out the window, when my assistant coach (who doubles as the bus driver) handed the map to one of the senior guys. Bad idea. Wrong turns and endless speculation about the relationship of the downtown skyline to our desired destination dominated. The once carefree chatter ceased as hunger pains grew. I kicked myself for not remembering the GPS.
We finally arrived back at the hotel if for a brief few minutes, time enough to tidy up and grab wallets. Back on the bus we piled, eager to fill our stomachs. Pulling up to the hotel's carport to pick up the last few people, spirits rebounded, the bus once again filled with happy noise...and the noise of the bus's roof mounted vent and escape hatch being unceremoniously ripped from its hinges. A loud, incessant buzzer sounded to tell us the hatch was awry. Really? The hole in the roof wasn't clue enough?
Thankfully, no damage was done to the hotel. A couple of kids held the broken cover in place as we drove the three miles to the location of approximately ten restaurants. Unfortunately, the entrance into the mall area was missed, finding us driving down a limited access highway instead. The chatter once again ceased as the buzz of the still-resounding alarm spotlighted our situation. After another turn-about, we finally arrived at our destination and filled our bellies. Packing tape now filled the gaps around the fractured vent.
"You got this?", I asked Jeff the next morning. After a scenic tour all over Charlotte the day before, I wanted to confirm that he had his bearings to get us back to the event site.
"Yep. Sure do" he said, handing the map once again to the same boy. I should have known better. I unwisely relaxed and sat back content to entertain some things heavy on my mind. Bad idea. Before long, I realized that we were again displaced from the proper route. A few more speculative U-turns and a much less direct route eventually returned us to the race site in the nick of time. The angst of arriving late must have been motivating. Jeff went out and ran a lifetime best and won the masters division of the open race.
After a day of successful racing, I took hold of the lousy and incomplete map and directions, guiding us on our way back home. It was without incident. Without incident, that is, until an hour and a half up the road, I startled out of a light sleep to realize we had missed a key exit onto another highway. It was almost laughable. Another grand detour and a few more groans eventually led back to Lynchburg. It could not have come any sooner.
So, what's the point? We are all laughing about it now but it wasn't quite so funny in the midst of it all. Had I just remembered the GPS, we would likely have had no difficulties. The problem was that we were relying on instinct, faulty as it was, coupled with a photocopied, hand-drawn and incomplete map. Even an old-school atlas would have provided superior direction.
I get myself into a lot of trouble, wasting time and energy, when I fail to rely on good directions. Surely, they are available but I either choose to ignore or disregard the directives. I rely, rather, on my own faulty premises and feelings, trying to reason my way back to where I need to be. That isn't too bright.
I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. Your word is a lamp for my feet,a light on my path. I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws. (Psalm 119: 104-106)