In the world we live in now, there is so much hustle and bustle and reasons to guard your safety and personal space, that making eye contact with strangers or even speaking to them has become all but nonexistent. We humans have become “ships that pass in the night” as we struggle daily from Point A to Point B.
But every now and then, in a blue moon… something changes the path of two ships. They find themselves on a collision course and drop anchor, because something unknown prevents them from steering around each other.
What that something is remains a mystery. But oftentimes, I am glad for it.
I was driving home from spending the day with my grandson this past Thursday night when I noticed my gas tank was dead on “E”. It was late, dark out, so you know I headed off the highway and looked for a QuikTrip or a RaceTrac with a quickness (they’re well lit, clean, and usually always populated).
The only gas station to be found off of that exit was a Shell. *sigh* I reluctantly pulled into it. Running out of gas was not an option.
While filling the tank, I kept hearing guitar music but couldn’t see where it was coming from. It sounded too clear to be coming out of speakers, and it was great stuff, full of angst, passion, and heart, the stuff a person isn’t getting paid for, the raw stuff that forces its way out of them. (My friend Terri’s son and my play-nephew, Robbie, is a musician and guitarist, and I’ve missed listening to him play since he’s moved away, so hearing that kind of playing fed my soul some kind of way.)
I listened to a whole instrumental and, after paying at the pump, continued on my merry way.
It was while waiting for my chance to turn out of the gas station that I glanced in my rearview and saw the guitar man sitting on one of the umbrella’d picnic tables right up against the convenience store, playing his butt off.
I whipped my car around and got out of it before I realized what I was doing.
Dude was white, tall and lean, maybe in his 50s, wearing paint-spattered overalls, paint-spattered combat boots, and his long gray hair combed back from his rugged face. His acoustic guitar was just as rugged in appearance as he was, and he was tearing it up! When he finished, I made damn sure to put a good tip in his open guitar case and give him a round of applause that brought people inside the convenience store to the windows.
His smile was infectious. He thanked me graciously and shook my hand. His name was Mike, he’d just gotten off work, and no way would he let me leave without a special performance just for me.
This time, he sang as he bent into that guitar, eyes closed tightly. I was about to call up B.B. King because Mike had The Blues down pat.
“You’re a bad, bad mama, you make me wanna put my Bible down. Aowwww! You’re a bad, bad mama, make me wanna put my Bible down. You got that jiggle when you walk, yeah, make me wanna put my Bible down…”
That set me off to gigglin’. 🙂
I remember thinking he played and sang from his soul the way I put new characters on paper — with raw, unrefined passion. It was mahhh-velous. He would tell me later that he’d played and sang his first song as a 5-year-old to the 12-year-old big sister he adored, that he’d been hooked on music and that feeling from that moment on. He also said that in general women just weren’t treated well, and that any time he could add a smile to a woman’s day or show her a little respect for the sacrifices she’d made for her family, he did it.
We talked a little more about family and shared a final handshake before Mike went back to his playing and I hit the road. It’s sad to me that odds are we’ll never run into each other again in this life, but it is what it is.
As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I’m not the type who goes to unfamiliar stores or gas stations, particularly after dark. It’s not that I live in fear, not at all. The simple fact is this is Metro Atlanta and if you don’t use common sense, someone will come along and teach you a lesson. I also don’t like unfamiliar people in my personal space, for the same reason. But. For some reason, I wasn’t supposed to find a QuikTrip or a RaceTrac that night. For some reason, my super-sensitive “Spidey-sense” didn’t go off at that Shell station.
There is something I was supposed to learn from Mike, and I won’t know what that is until the situation comes up where I need to use it.
Sometimes, it’s the strangers that pass through your life story who leave the most indelible footprints.