Roughly two years ago I was traveling my normal route through Manchester, driving South on Interstate 293, on my way to Nashua, I believe. Midway between Exits 6 and 5, I passed an area with obvious skid marks in the grass and dirt that measured approximately 15 feet. Another 5-10 feet past the end of the skid was a downed road sign: EMERGENCY STOPPING ONLY.
It was one of those moments that I wanted and needed the guts to pull over, brave the passing highway traffic, get out of my car, take out my phone and snap a few pictures in order to capture the symmetry and humor in life that is timing.
The previous two paragraphs contain 113 words. Hardly the amount of words required for a picture’s worth of 1,000. A picture or series of pictures would be a much simpler way to present the situation of that moment. The mind’s eye would know almost immediately what I saw. Interstate 293 contains multiple signs that say EMERGENCY STOPPING ONLY. However, this was the only time I had seen one of those signs fulfilling its purpose of actually stopping an emergency. If that particular sign had not been in that particular place at that particular time, there’s no telling what kind of damage that vehicle would have done.
Fortunately, the sign was there.
In 1983, fresh out of college and shortly after my move to New York City, one of my first jobs was at a 24-hour restaurant called Richoux of London (now defunct for a very long time). Richoux wasn’t English — the kitchen was mostly Haitian, if I recall — although it did have a few versions of English things. Scones I recall. Perhaps some others things — teas maybe. My shift occupied my hours of 11 o’clock at night until 6 or 7 in the morning, and often I would work until the sun was coming up and the rest of the city was just getting ready to go to work.
At times I was cut early — at 3 or 4 a.m. — and I would leave the restaurant at 54th Street and 6th Avenue, walking downtown to my apartment on 45th and 9th. At three or four in the morning, I really didn’t feel like carrying much cash on me for that 1¼ mile walk — I still don’t, no matter what time it is — so I would stop at a nearby ATM and make a cash deposit into my account. ATM technology was still relatively new at the time, but I was quickly assured of the safety and convenience. I know there are stories, but I was never confronted or bothered, to my recollection. I’ve again gotten in the habit of making bank deposits at an ATM during off-hours. I much prefer the interaction of a teller, but over 30 years later, I find myself trusting the convenience of ATM deposits. Go figure.
Before a recent Saturday work shift, I stopped by a Bedford branch of Citizens Bank to make a deposit. All went well, I got my receipt, and I went on my way, worked my shift and then made a pit stop at Target. At the register it dawned on me that I forgot to retrieve my debit card from the ATM that afternoon
Screeching sound. EMERGENCY STOPPING ONLY.
I quickly paid my bill at Target and then skedaddled my way back to that branch of Citizens Bank. I knew they were closed until Monday morning, but I wanted to see if perhaps my debit card was still sticking out of the ATM. It wasn’t, so there was an off chance that it got sucked back into the ATM rather than confiscated by another, more nefarious, ATM user.
When I got home, I called Citizens and they put a temporary hold on the card and I didn’t notice any activity on my online account. I’ve been living week to week and month to month and with rent/car payment/other bills due soon, I certainly don’t want hiccups that would make payments even more difficult.
Long story short, my card was recovered with minimal difficulties and no financial headaches.
I met a woman on a recent Tuesday night in Milford and we quickly became friends. Our humors and silliness meshed almost instantly and there was also what seemed to be a mutual attraction. Things were clicking and we both mentioned that we felt a connection. Laughter, texts messages and emails to each other made me feel a bit youthful and excited with anticipation as I got to know someone new in my life. More importantly, I got the same impression from her.
This was a new person. A new friend. Perhaps a new romance. We were improvising as we had just met, of course. I know I certainly wasn’t planning ahead. She was out of the normal circle I traveled. Not a work, theater or church acquaintance. I was drawn to her humor and positivity about life despite some hardships along the way and I felt — at least — that I might learn something from her. She didn’t like sports or baseball much but liked music. I’m relatively uneducated but I do like a wide range of music, and often find positives in varying styles, so I had hoped that was a common denominator.
Things continued to go well and we agreed to meet again on that Thursday in Manchester, and I cooked a simple pasta dinner. A shuffle mix of Dinah Washington played on my iTunes. I served her coffee in a Sesame Street Super Grover cup. Silliness won out.
Our connection and attraction seemed almost instantaneous. We laughed a lot and were goofy at times but also took the time to listen to each other. The following Monday was an off day for me and she arranged to also get the day off and we planned to drive up to the White Mountain area and take in a tour (or partial tour) of some New Hampshire waterfalls. We looked forward to seeing each other. So much so that even though I worked on Sunday night, she arranged to meet me once I got out of work, partially so we could get an early-ish start on Monday. To me, the fact that she wanted to see me and that I wanted to see her added to the excitement and teenage feeling of the burgeoning connection.
Well, our journey started pleasantly enough, driving up Interstate 93 and alternating CDs of Boston and Foreigner. She introduced me to the music of Ed Sheeran, which I enjoyed. Reminded me a lot of Jason Mraz.
Come to find out, long before Boston, Foreigner, or Ed Sheeran; long before the shared turkey and cheese sandwiches and Sicilian lemonade at the scenic overlook; long before that somewhat fruitless journey for waterfalls — or even long before getting into the car for that matter, she had stepped on her internal brakes, driven off her internal Interstate and hit that infernal EMERGENCY STOPPING ONLY sign.
It took a few days for me to get it, but even though we still seemed to be enjoying ourselves that day, from her perspective, we had less in common than originally thought.
From my perspective, time was not given the time to make an educated decision. Even so, despite assurances that I had done nothing wrong and had been nothing but gentlemanly toward her, our connection had now disconnected.
On Facebook, she had posted an awesome quote regarding passion, attributed to Rune Lazuli:
“A passionate woman is a strong and resilient woman. A passionate woman knows what she wants and seeks it without mercy. A passionate woman lives her truth authentically. A passionate woman never apologizes for her wild woman ways. She is liberated of society, of man, of laws, of herself even sometimes. A passionate woman does not hide behind veils, curtains, her physicality, darkness, or even mystery — for she knows there is always more mystery, it is a natural element of her power as a woman and that power is infinite. A passionate woman stands in the light as much as she stands in the shadow. Passion makes you feel the entire spectrum of emotion in its deepest intensities. This means when she is happy she will bring the entire universe to you to see you smile, and when she is sad you will see the cosmos crying through her. When she is angry she might lose herself in emotions, she might run, she might hurt herself, she might curse God. Passion comes with a price, and the passionate woman knows this price, the price is her life, it is her sanity, it is to risk everything and everyone to remain true to herself. If there is one female archetype you should never doubt, it is the one that has been feared the most throughout history — the passionate one. And if you want her, you must be patient – otherwise settle for mediocrity, settle for a woman who is fearful of her power, settle for a woman who will make you laugh, but not all of your laughter, and who will make you cry, but not all of your tears. In the words of Gibran — for even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you, and with a passionate woman it is no different. And for all you women who embrace your passion, never step down, never forget, never give in. Stay true to Venus, stay true to your wild passion.”
I immediately liked the quote but I also see, agree and identify with it from a male perspective as well.
I will add that, to me, passion comes in differing forms. Wild as passion seems to the onlooker, some passion is internal and silent until it is released for the masses to see. And some is seen in the art around us. The art in music. The art in the trees. The art in the dirt. The art in the waterfall. The art in life. Some of us are passionate as a state of being and act on those passions. Our passions allow us to act instinctively and often right away. Passion provides lift-off, and we soar … or crash.
There are others who are more passionate in thought rather than deed and rarely act on those passions.
Until they do.
Some would say they procrastinate — I’m a pro at crastinating.
But I also look at it differently. Rather than acting on passion, some prefer to allow things to percolate, to develop in their minds until the art of their passion is apparent and no longer a parent, telling them to clean up the mess.
Yes, passions often create mess. Mess before the art. Mess after the art. The wonderful, artsy mess of life.
So, in the span of about a week, my friend and I experienced the anticipation, promise, arty, growth and disintegration of a possibility that in reality didn’t have that much of a chance. In order to get to a destination together, it’s best to be in the same vehicle. Road maps to the waterfalls in life aren’t always as clear as they should be.
Our roads in life contain multiple signs or signals telling us EMERGENCY STOPPING ONLY. Some of us notice them and some don’t. My friend saw the signs and felt she needed to pull over. If that particular sign had not been in that particular place at that particular time, there’s no telling what kind of damage our vehicles would have done. Alternatively, we also do not know the dance that could have been choreographed. Fortunately — for her, at least — the sign was there.
Our dependence on others to complete us aids our occasional feelings of incompletion. We are not really looking for “a better half.” We are looking for another whole. A tennis partner? Sure, why not? A fencing partner? A lunging, parrying, thrusting opponent/partner who brings out your best … and vice versa.
Now, to listen to my occasional words of wisdom. Ah. The onlooker may see it as wis-dumb.
I’m not mad about it and I’m not upset. And I’m definitely not Oscar the Grouch about it, even though I also have his coffee mug.
I was a little confused given the initial signals, but I process through it, not having invested much initial emotion.
And music. Listening to the music in life.
Or sports radio.
Gary Trahan of Manchester, NH, has written and performed throughout New England, Colorado, Florida and New York City. Gary has written plays, sketches, screenplays and humor columns, including for almost three years as part of a rotating team of humor columnists submitting for the Encore section of The Nashua Telegraph. “Gare” received his BA from UMass/Amherst another lifetime ago, and has been learning lessons ever since. Writing and other forms of creativity help to keep him sane, uh, sanER. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.