The long road home . . . Part 3
So far on my travel log, I have waxed poetically about rail transportation. From my perspective, there is only one drawback: train stations in larger cities. This isn’t a judgment, but just an “it is what it is” assessment. Many of the larger train stations have a disproportionate number of panhandlers and others that have not seen many of life’s blessings. So when I disembarked in New Orleans, I knew what lay ahead of me in the station.
Normally, I would not be fazed by this, but this time I had packed 2 large suitcases (filled with Christmas presents) along with a purse and knitting bag. I was loaded down. Upon arrival in the station I discovered that the rental car office was not adjacent (as advertised) but rather two blocks away in the hub of the down and out. I chose not to pick up my checked bag and started out on foot (wearing snow boots and winter coat). I probably looked like I normally lived right outside the station carrying everything I own on my person or in one of my bags.
I left in 20 something degrees and arrived in upper 70’s. I was the definition of a hot mess while I tried to navigate my way to the rental car mecca. To complicate matters there was major road construction outside the station, and based on the way I looked, not a single car helped by allowing me to cross the street. While I was waiting and sweating, a man came up really, really close to me. I knew what was about to happen next, except for at this point, I was just plain ticked. So I turned around and gave him the “Don’t mess with this Momma” stare coupled with a “Don’t even think about it” verbalization because I “just might come unglued right here” on Loyola Street. Amazingly it worked and I arrived at my destination possibly 5 pounds lighter in my own personal sweat sauna.
All was well . . . until. Until the rental car agent asked, “Do you have another driver’s license?” This was my first inkling that more trouble than almost getting mugged was brewing. Seriously, lady, what the heck? No I don’t have another driver’s license. What was she thinking? Well, it turns out that my license expired on my birthday 13 days prior. There was nothing that could be done except call my parents for help.
The first thing out of my dad’s mouth was, “How did this happen?” Dad, that isn’t important right now, and what I really needed to hear was, “Okay, let me grab my Daddy super cape, and I am on my way. It will take me 3 hours, but I am on my way.” Thankfully after explaining my near mugging, the rental car folks drove me to the train station.
Back at Amtrak, I found a seat and made a few phone calls, but here I was stuck in a not- so-lovely place. While I was making my calls, I was approached once again. “No I didn’t have any extra money for food. Currently, I am in my own mess and I cannot fix yours. God bless you anyways.” At this point, I noticed two sweet little ladies who also seemed to be waiting with their barrage of suitcases.
I hated to do it, but I went over and politely asked if I could sit next to them – they radiated peace and comfort. I asked if they could watch my bags so I could retrieve my checked bag. Once back in my seat, I was approached for a third time. “Listen sir, I am about one blink away from having a meltdown, and I am sorry I cannot help you. I can barely help myself.”
I don’t know what possessed me, but the whole story came burbling out to my now “train station” friends. The two sweet ladies asked where I was trying to get to. I explained Pensacola. They asked a few questions about what highways would you take to get there. The next thing I knew they were calling their husbands and trying to figure out how to fix a situation – me!
Eventually, I learned that they had travelled on a riverboat from New Orleans to Memphis and then rode the train back. They were all friends from a Sunday School class, and they then were driving home to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Miss Jane and Miss Sandy just made me feel better. At this point, my stress level had gone down simply because they were there. Finally, they got through to their husbands with a message of “Please come into the train station when you arrive, because we have a proposition for you.”
Rescuing me was the proposition. As their husbands approached, I leaned over and said, “Is this the point where I make puppy dog eyes for them to feel sorry for me?” We had some good chuckles. Once the Misters Marvin (both husbands share the same name) heard this story, their Southern damsel-in-distress meter kicked in and they said, “Grab your bags! We will at least meet your parents in the middle.”
One call to my dad provided another dad-ism. “Are you satisfied with this arrangement?” was followed swiftly by “Are you sure you can trust these people?” I assured him this was a gift from God – these were Sunday School people! Somehow he must have trusted my judgment at that point.
I later learned that one Marvin is retired Air Force and the other Marvin is retired Highway Patrol. And in all of their words, “There was no way we were leaving you there.”
And so here we were on our way to somewhere in Mississippi to drop off the newly adopted daughter with her biological parent. Along the way, we shared our stories and, more importantly, our faith – the whole time I was praising Jesus in the storm for sending me the best guardian angels this side of heaven.
The best part was what my dad saw when we met at our drop-off location. Here was his wayward daughter (who NEVER got a notice to renew her license) flanked by one couple on each side. Earlier, I suggested they just leave me at a Cracker Barrel, where I could rock on the porch, but they wouldn’t dream of it.
Instead they waited to deliver me straight into my Daddy’s hands. It was the best picture image I will ever have. It reminded me of all the people of faith that have helped mold and shape me (including the one that was the reason for my travels) who have helped usher me -one day – into my Heavenly Daddy’s hands. For that I am incredibly blessed!