Glad to hear that I am not the only one that makes friends...any where they go!
Warning! At road closures, do not remain in vehicle
Do you remember that one time I was halfway through a 10-day, 50 store tour across eight states in the west? Then, as I was racing toward my last event of the day, 700 miles from where I started the morning, I hit a road closure for rock blasting at Snoqualmie Pass outside Seattle?
Oh yeah, that was Tuesday.
With folks waiting for me at the Deseret Book location in nearby Bellevue, Washington, I approached the temporary closure on I-90 that gave me two options. I could turn the car off and sit it out, or I could take a detour that my GPS estimated would take four hours across 200 miles. The detour would launch me so far off the path to the north that I’d need a passport and Frommer’s guide to Saskatchewan.
After having already spent 12 hours in the car on a journey that began in Boise Idaho, I chose the closure and put it in park.
While waiting, I made phone calls to the publisher and bookstore to let them know we’d need to push the event to the next morning. I hated knowing there were people waiting in the store and others on the way who likely wouldn’t be able to attend during regular business hours the next day because of work and family responsibilities.
As I sat in the car lamenting my misfortune, I remembered all the folks during the last week who made considerable sacrifice to see me.
Wonderful readers waited as long as two hours when the schedule hung me out to dry. Others drove long distances only to see me dash in and out of the store with so little time all we could do was shake hands, take a photo and express gratitude for one another.
In Utah last week, one longtime reader chased me to several stores, each time arriving just minutes after I’d left. Eventually they gave up with a shrug and smile. “Next time!” They said to me on Facebook.
In Idaho this weekend, a faithful reader drove from Rexburg to Ammon to find I was already on the freeway by the time she walked in the bookstore. But there were no complaints and no regrets; in each case they simply made the best of it.
Sitting in the stunning Snoqualmie canyon, I looked around and thought, what would these readers do? The answer was pretty obvious.
At road closures, they would not remain in the vehicle.
I stretched my legs and stood in that clean, crisp air, the kind that feels like it’s healing your lungs.
I looked at the SUV behind me and smiled.
Before I could even take a step toward it, the woman on the passenger’s side saw me and was hopping out to say hello.
Her name was Linda Sledd, and the beautiful smile on her face said she’s familiar with turning delays into delights.
“Do you have any books?” she asked with a laugh.
After introductions and an explanation of the lettering on the back of my rental car promoting the #50storetour, we dove down to the business of books, family, trips and writing. Her husband Dana soon joined us and the conversation comfortably rolled on, even if traffic didn’t.
I learned that the Sledd’s have a young granddaughter, Alicia, who’s an aspiring writer and is already working on her first novel. I signed a book for her and promised to be at her first signing someday.
We talked about Seattle’s weather, my daughter Oakli at Brigham Young University and the oddity of me driving a rental car from Phoenix to Seattle and back to San Diego.
“I’m so glad I got out of the car,” I told her.
Before we said goodbye with handshakes and hugs, I plied them with books and treats from my car – gummy bears, of course – and through the canyon we went.
Certainly, this adventure has produced a long list of memories sure to linger for months and years to come. But this one will always sit high in the altitude above the best experiences of this trip and most others.
When life hands my readers and friends – the terms are synonymous – detours and delays, they don’t withdraw and complain. They engage, exchange and learn. They make the best of every delay.
Some of the most interesting and memorable people we might ever meet aren’t the ones in the next cubicle, the pew behind us in church or next-door to us in the cul-de-sac.
They might be behind us in line in the grocery store or in the doctor’s office waiting room.
Or, maybe, they’re sitting in an SUV on I-90 in a canyon. And, if that’s true, we better get out of the car.