Author Anne Lamott, in her book Traveling Mercies, discusses her journey of faith, employing a 19th century term used to seek divine protection for those embarking on long excursions. I’m thinking about writing a travel book of my own. I’ll call it Traveling Miseries, with maybe a subtitle “Misplaced Faith.”
I’ve been in need of traveling mercies, divine intervention of one kind or another, for most of the last 40 years as I trekked across God’s country — that’s rural America, by the way — gathering stories for Farm Press. I’ll have to admit that I’ve encountered more mercy than misery, but the miseries always seemed to make the best tales.
Consider now: I’m sitting in a very nice hotel room in downtown Dallas, Texas, where I’ve been covering the Beltwide Cotton Conferences. I’m not sure when I’ll get home. It’s snowing there now, and is supposed to be snowing there again tomorrow, about the time my original flight was supposed to land. I opted for an earlier flight (5:00 a.m., so why am I not already in bed?) hoping to catch a narrow window of opportunity between storms.
I’m not confident. I have placed faith once again in the hands of an airline that has, in recent times, sent my baggage hither thither and who knows where for three days, stranded me in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., and just two days ago decided it would be a good idea to send me on a three-hour bus ride to catch a flight from an airport that had been fogged in for small aircraft all day, turning an estimated 5-hour trip into a 12-hour drudge.
Over the years, I’ve been snowed in, rained out, and hailed on. I’ve been lost on more occasions than I want to admit, and have taken wrong turns in a few towns that seemed impossible to lose one’s way through — towns that you can read the “You are entering” and “You are leaving signs” from the same location.
I’ve been both amazed and frightened by how quickly a West Texas dust storm can engulf you and take visibility from near infinite to no further than the front of your truck.
I’ve met some friendly (mostly) officers of the law who chided me for going too fast, easing over the white line on the edge of the road, and once for failing to pay for gas at a service station — which, by the way, was a complete misunderstanding, and the debt was quickly paid. I’ve also talked my way out of a few tickets by looking sheepish — that gets easier as my hair turns whiter and my face gets more wrinkled.
Travel comes with about equal chances of getting where you want to go on time, and being stranded somewhere you don’t want to be for who-knows-how-long. I prefer to be in charge, even with my penchant for getting lost, so driving is my preferred mode of travel. But I often have to take to the friendly skies and trust that the airline gets me to my final destination — poor choice of words, there — with baggage intact.
We will see how tomorrow goes. Traveling Mercies are greatly to be desired.
P.S.:One day later — My skepticism was well-founded. But I did get home.