I drive a Jaguar. I didn’t plan on owning one. In fact, during my teens, I fantasized about owning a Porche, like the one in the 80’s movie Risky Business. Now I drive a white Jag XJL. It’s sleek and fast and luxurious as anything. I never really fancied myself a Jaguar owner, because I imagined anyone who drove that car would be uppity and stuffy and all about appearances. Yes, it looks fantastic and there’s some prestige associated with that kitty-cat on the front, but I love my car because it is fast and comfortable and reliable. Whatever you might have heard about a Jag being finicky and unreliable, was untrue. However, sometimes, outward appearances are not what they might seem.
I took a trip to Tucson with my daughter, my son and his ‘friend-who-is-a-girl’. (We call her this because they are adamant that they are NOT dating.) I drove the above-mentioned car, because…well…it goes like snot and it’s super comfortable. Each time I filled up, someone would comment on my car, offering compliments and appreciation. Nice, but not really my thing. By appearances, my car was the envy of many. In truth, it was a shit-pit complete with breakdowns (of the emotional sort), mishaps and sandwich crumbs in the seams of the seats.
To say that I am directionally challenged is not completely correct. I mean, I know north from south, east from west, but put me in a car, in unfamiliar surroundings and I’m screwed! I try, but if I’m honest, I suck at finding my way without a map. This has only gotten worse with the prevalence of GPS. Now, I have to rely on a piece of technology that saves me from getting lost. If there’s anything that I’m less capable of managing than directions, it has to be technology. (No word of a lie, I have given up trying to figure out my DVD player.) Somehow, I managed to change the GPS settings on my car, so it kept trying to send me off the route I had taken so many times from Tucson to Edmonton. I didn’t exactly know what was wrong, I only knew it was. So how did I resolve this issue? I called my directionally competent husband on hands free, to get directions. Every. Time. I. Had. To. Turn. Now, the hubs loves me unconditionally. This is fact. If I wasn’t sure of that, I had only recall the multiple calls and he endured during my 4-day ordeal. Finally, he told me to rack up the data on my phone and Google Map that shit already! Which I did. Problem solved, until the phone bill arrives, but that is another story.
The Blow Out
I had every intention of engaging some horsepower and making the trip home in 2, twelve-hour driving days, with one hotel stay along the way. By Southern Utah, I noticed a slight shake. I slowed as the shake turned into a rumble and a wobble. I and pulled over, announcing that I have a flat. Sure enough, my rear driver’s tire blew out and I went to work to change it on the highway. Have you ever seen a high-end luxury car with a bright red doughnut tire on it? Likely not, because people who own fancy-schmancy cars have fancy-schmancy ‘OnStar’ or AAA service to tow their asses out of predicaments like this. Me, I have a mechanic father who taught me how to change a tire and a husband who believes I can handle anything, so I changed the offending tire and drove 50 miles to the nearest town, while calling every local tire shop to see if they had a low-profile, high-performance Pirelli tire to install. Luckily, I called Nick, who had one shipped from Salt Lake City and mounted it by noon the next day. We were on our way, albeit a day late, but we were moving.
By Northern Utah, my fancy-schmancy car notified me that my front passenger tire was low on air, so I stopped for gas and air at the next service station. By the time I got back to the highway, I was low on air again. I limped my way to Idaho Falls, where I resigned to another hotel stay and a trip to a second tire shop. At the Walmart Tire Centre, a young man, with scant whiskers and an obvious limp, was clearly the only employee (save the manager) that took his job seriously, because two of his co-workers blew off their shift, leaving him to manage the front-end and all tire repair and lube jobs himself. He was kind and efficient and even fairly pleasant, in spite of having triple his regular workload on a Saturday morning. He said there was no hole to repair, but the tire was near needing replacement. Unfortunately, he did not have one in stock. I opted to buy a 9volt mini-compressor that plugs into the power outlet in the car and limp my way to the next big city in hopes of the problem rectifying itself (it happens…sometimes…rarely…ok, almost never) or finding the next tire shop to help. Enter Greg, from Tire-rama Great Falls. I called Greg several times, perhaps more often than I called Kenny for directions. By the time I reached Great Falls, I felt we had a bond that might have been comparable to my son’s relationship with his ‘friend-who-is-a-girl’. Yes, Greg and his staff stayed late. He stuck with me as we made our way north through Montana, stopping every 10 minutes to fill the tire with our little compressor, Nascar Pit Stop style, with all hands on deck, to shave mere seconds off our time, so that we might make it to Tire-rama before they closed at 4PM. We pulled off the I-15 at 3:59, and called Greg to make sure he held the door for us to get our new tire. By the time we got gas, and DQ ice cream, we were ready to go the distance home in one shot. We were Alberta bound. Border crossing, Lethbridge, then home. Go TEAM!
The Rest-stop not taken
I was deliriously happy, after 4 hours of stop-and-go tire refills, to be able to travel continuously for hours at a time, that I was reluctant to stop again. In five hours, we could be home! At Lethbridge, I made a quick stop at Starbucks for caffeine and snacks. My daughter, pointed out a nice Holiday Inn with a water slide, but the sun was up and the weather was clear, so I pressed on for Calgary. By Ft. McLeod, I was regretting my decision, but still felt we could make it to Calgary before the roads got too bad. Why do we underestimate something as powerful as Mother Nature? Pure hubris and ambition…mixed with the desire to sleep in one’s own bed. However, unfortunate weather soon turned into disastrous, high-risk travel conditions. Slushy roads were exacerbated by high winds & blowing snow across the highway. I prayed for the Nanton sign and was relieved to have it appear momentarily. Within 2km, we were pulling into the Double D Motel. To say this was a ‘fixer-upper’ was an understatement, but the rooms were extremely clean, warm and ultimately, they weren’t ‘travelling down the highway’, so we took the last two rooms they had.
Blinded by passers-by
I expected poor driving conditions the next day, but the skies were clear, so at least I could see. Or not. The warmer weather was melting the ice and snow on the highways and creating a slushy mess. Every vehicle around me was throwing up a dirty spray of much and mess, so that I had a hard time seeing where I was going. Every time I thought I could get in the clear, another vehicle would pull up and obscure my vision with muck and mess. My son’s ‘friend-who-is-a-girl’ had the extreme good fortune to see not only my capable driving skills, but also my ability to string 5 f-words together in one sentence. Okay, yes, they were the same 5 f-words, with varied suffixes attached, but I do take pride in my vocabulary, hence the colourful (if not repetitive) expletives. These were quickly flanked by silent prayers for safe travels. “Please, God. Keep me from sliding under the tires of the neighbouring B-train and causing a disastrous accident with loss of life that I could not reconcile to anyone. Please, God. Keep us safe.” Then more f-words.
Are you freaking kidding me right now?!!
You know the Jaws music, that makes you think those people are so stupid to be out swimming, even though it all looks safe in the water. You know some shit is going to go down, if only from the music. That music should be my theme song some days. Breakfast at A&W, after filling up. Seems innocuous, right? I should have known, after trying to fill my tank at a pump that dispensed fuel, 50ml at a time. I kid you not. With near gale-force winds, trying to fill the car in 5-cent increments was killing me. After moving to a new pump and completing the task, it was time for the drive thru. Now, I commend A&W for making their packaging eco-friendly, but their drink cups are only slightly more sturdy, than the newsprint drink cup you made for your 3rd grade magic show, and the lids are only precariously perched atop of said cup. As the medium OJ was passed through the driver’s window, the lid popped off and the sticky orange drink dumped all over me and my Jaguar cockpit. I was in a state of shock and horror as the cold juice seeped into the crotch of my pants. I am certain my face showed my dismay. The sever apologized. Then the manager apologized. I pulled into the nearest parking spot (yes it was a handicapped stall) and dug my suitcase out of the trunk, so that I could change out of my juice-soaked clothes, with hopes that my passengers would clean up the orange juice from my seat. Imagine if you will, a grown woman, with hat-hair, sneaking out of a toilet stall, naked from the waist down, trying to make the proximity sensor on the tap work, so that she might cup some clear water in her one able hand, to quasi-clean her sticky nether regions of residual OJ from the drink spilled in her lap. Was I happy?! Hells to the NO! But after I cleaned my bird and changed my clothes and washed my leather seat, I went in and wished the A&W server a better day. You see, I have a friend who taught me about grace. Her voice came into my head and reminded me that grace is a gift in time of struggle, so I used it. I had to, to save myself from the impending heart attack that was on its way.
So, why on Earth have I shared all of this with you? First, as a form of therapy for myself and to save my kind and unassuming husband from the verbal onslaught that I am wanting to unleash. “I am NEVER f&cking doing that again! Never!!” But more truthfully, I started thinking about life in business and life in general, as I made my way home. I was tired and a bit frustrated, but I could think of nothing better to do, than to embrace the chaos. Let me explain.
Recent popular opinion suggests that we attract into our lives, that which we focus upon and that nothing that happens (according to the law of attraction) that we do not bring into our own experience. As a result, we create this perpetually positive persona, from which only gratitude and inspiration are shared. If you doubt me, look at your social media feed. You will likely see a few extremely disgruntled citizens, ranting about the sorry state of politics. But mostly, you will see a plethora of happy posts, with images of beaming flawless faces, rosy cheeked and dewy with an outdoor glow, (at the precise camera angle to diminish double chins and drooping eyelids), raving that life is an amazing blessing and gift. If you are in business, add professionalism and success to the value messages you send forth into the world. Now, I am not rejecting the importance of these values, nor denouncing the credibility of those who share such messages. Heck, read my past blogs, I’m one of these perpetually positive people. What I am trying to convey is this… An overwhelming expectation for inspiration has overshadowed the unattractive truth that life can be hard. We have inadvertently set everyone’s ‘happiness standard’ at an almost unrealistic level of sunshine, rainbows and unicorns. In fact, our experiences are sometimes full of chaos, but we feel compelled to hide that under a shiny exterior to avoid judgement and negative consequences from our peers, our customers or worse, the Universe.
Take for example, my car. A sleek and stunning machine, that conveys power, competence and importance. What people saw from the outside was a journey full of luxury and relaxation. Upon closer examination, there were multiple issues, no different than those humans face daily:
- -The misdirection. Have you ever been steered off-course by something or someone, only to have to course correct along the way?
- -The blow-out. Something unexpected and emergent arises out of the blue and you are left problem solving at the side of the road. You must keep a cool head until the crisis is rectified.
- The slow leak. Something is wrong, but you can’t quite figure out the problem so you Band-aid the issue until you can get a professional opinion.
- Nature’s reminder that you are small and insignificant. “Inclement weather, dangerous road conditions or acts of God” may affect your best-laid plans. Take the hint and take a break.
- Blinded by passers-by. Sometimes others are moving so fast that you think you should too, but their journey is not yours and if you focus on trying to keep up, you might just get blinded by the spray.
- The WTF factor. Sometimes, shit happens and you must find the grace to take the high road and deal with a smile on your face, because it makes no sense to compound the situation with anger and frustration. Just clean up the mess and keep going.
Finally, tired and travel-weary, I made it home and exited my travelling vessel, leaving behind the litter and road grit, to clean up another day. This is the real truth about life in pursuit of our goals. It’s hard. It’s messy. It doesn’t always go according to plan. So, don’t be discouraged by the shiny, goal-centered, consummately inspirational individual, who appears to have it all together. Like my Jag, they may have crumbs in their crack, too.