Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about.
- Genesis 22:1-3
Of course, we know the rest of the story. Abraham had waited over 100 years to have a son. Now that a miracle in his old age had occurred, God asked Abraham to sacrifice that son. Abraham, loving God more than his next breath, obeyed God, but God stopped him at the last moment. A ram was found nearby and the ram was used as the sacrifice.
God tests each of us, and sometimes the tests are not that pleasant. If our focus is on God, even the tough times or the times that just seem other worldly or crazy do not seem to bother us.
Some people might think that my stories are made up, and many have been gilded a bit as my wife would say. Instead of five near-miss accidents, she might exclude one and make it four. But I will try to stick to the bare facts of one day of running errands in this story. Many of my stories might be composites of two or three trips, but this was just one long trip. And my wife’s reaction to about the third or fourth person cutting me off in traffic and then the crazy driver that I mention to start the madness… Her reaction, as it often is, is with singing a song, but she will make up new words to the song.
For this story, her song? Only You by Buck Ram and Ande Lamb. But her words started with “Only You, can bring the crazies out. It’s only you, so don’t fret or pout. …”
For those who don’t know this classic from the Platters…
Now to the story:
We had a very busy non-dialysis day recently. We had a telemedicine appointment with the endocrinologist. We then had to drive thirty minutes south to line up for my wife getting COVID tested. She had an upper and lower gastro-intestinal scope thing to do the following week, endoscopy and colonoscopy, to make sure that she did not have some issue that was causing her to lose blood, causing anemia, lethargy, etc. The COVID test seems to be the new normal when having a scheduled test at the hospital.
The problem was that we then had to drive north from there for about 45 minutes along the interstate, well past the house, to get to the wholesale warehouse store to get the medicine for the prep prior to the tests and to do some grocery shopping.
The phone call from the doctor was about an hour earlier than scheduled, so we ran out the door quickly, forgetting stuff. I drove around the house and got the ice-cold drink that I would need while waiting, which I had left on the kitchen table. Then we drove away, at least about a half mile from the house, only to turn around since my wife had forgotten the script for the prescription that we needed to pick up. Then, as I was walking back to the car, my wife shouted that we needed an insulated shopping bag, as she wanted to buy fish at the wholesale warehouse while waiting on the prescription. The warehouse store identifies who caught the fish and where it was caught. I got a couple of frozen water bottles, one liter each, to keep cool every future purchase that was left in the bag. Thus, without getting anywhere and doing a lot of going, I had returned to the house three times. All because we were an hour ahead of schedule, and not prepared – now, barely on time.
Okay, there were the standard things regarding people not stopping at stop signs or cutting me off in traffic, but about halfway to the drive-in COVID test site, I went through an intersection behind a very slow driver. But, the driver turned on his turn signal and turned left toward a parking lot entrance. I started to pass, but the driver did not go into the parking lot. The driver snapped the wheel back and started driving in the wrong direction in the other lane, right next to me. God was with us in that this road is heavily travelled except for that one day at that one moment; the road miraculously had no oncoming traffic. I stopped, causing the car behind me to stop also. I had to know what the crazy person was going to do before I was going to move any further. After about a quarter of a mile, he slowly got back into the proper lane, well ahead of me. As I started moving again, my wife started composing her version of the song. Both of us were intently looking at what the crazy person might do next. He turned left eventually toward the high school. (maybe the school’s principal? Sorry, I promised to stick to the facts.)
There were a few more crazies on the road to the drive-in COVID test site. We both laughed, once we realized each time that we were safe for the moment. The test went smoothly and the drive to the wholesale warehouse went with few incidents. My wife never sang through this period, as we were both calm. We even had a nice meal at a Mexican restaurant before doing our shopping. I also got gasoline at the wholesale price and as a I pulled out from the gas pumps, there is a huge triangular space between the pumps and the lanes for the parking lot, all of it paved and large enough to play a football game on. A woman pulled out of the lane, far away, that I wanted to enter. She headed directly toward us instead of toward the store exit, and since we were in this huge triangle with no marked lanes to drive in, I felt the rules of the sea should apply. I turned slightly to the right to avoid a head on collision with the woman. She must have been from a country that drives on the opposite side of the road (ah, maybe the first guy was NOT crazy, but maybe they both were). Back to the facts, she turned left. I corrected three times further to the right. She corrected three times further to her left, obviously wanting to hit us head on. As I said, this is a large triangle, a lot of room to make three corrections and still not be in danger yet. Again, for the second time that day, I stopped to let the crazy person do something that they were unfamiliar with doing, THINKING!!!! She drove past, turning even further to the left and the passenger in her car looked at us with such hatred that if looks could kill… Then again, we were laughing, and my wife was singing. “Only You…”
Then, on the way to the grocery store, there was a crazy driver who kept his blinker on to turn left, pulling into each left turn lane and then changing his mind. I slowed to allow him to quickly turn right, across four lanes of traffic, five intersections later. By this point, I was anticipating and interpreting the insanity.
No further incidents until we got inside the grocery store. My wife figured out a new way of grocery shopping for us. She sent me for the cans, jars, bottle, boxes, and milk cartons plus bananas and broccoli for me while she did the remaining produce and meats. We each had our own list, meeting in the frozen section in the ice cream aisle. In one aisle, I was getting gelatin to make for her upcoming tests – liquid diet for 24 hours prior to the test. To accomplish social distancing, I had to stand back while two ladies (at least I treated them as such) picked up 20 boxes of gelatin and pudding, putting all but two back on the shelf, having philosophical discussions about each flavor (Is it really too early in the season to have pumpkin spice pudding on the shelf? It must have been, because after a two-minute argument, they put it back.), totally unaware that they were corking up all traffic in the aisle and people were getting hostile. (Why? Since COVID began, why does all restocking occur in the middle of the day, making every lane one cart in width, except in frozen goods with wider aisles to allow the opening of the freezer doors? So, someone taking their time shopping and comparing prices or doing as I do now, looking at the ingredients, can totally disrupt everyone else’s day?) These ladies were also shopping in the wrong direction. As I moved forward to look for yellow and green, the old man behind me, not wanting to go through another person perusing gelatin and obviously a well-practiced hockey player, walked past me, hip checking me into the shelves. (In hockey, when you bump an opponent with your hip against his hip, and the bumping, or checking – as they call it, player raises his hip as he does so, he can get the opponent off his skates and falling. I spent a few minutes putting the boxes that I crashed into back in their place. I simply laughed, now knowing what a hip check feels like, but where he passed, there was plenty of room without physical contact.
I waited again in dairy for Half and Half, smiling as the old man, a different one, who read the label on everything in the cooler without getting any of it. Another five minutes of my life wasted.
But I finally got to the frozen aisle where the ice cream was located, my designated meeting place. My wife and I had bumped into each other earlier (not literally), and I knew she would be there any second. There was only one man, a third old man, in the aisle who was going the wrong way. We will call him Wrong Way Man. Wrong Way Man was looking intently at the “Friendly” ice cream. When you hear the story, you can imagine that it is a shame that the man missed the irony of this moment. I tried to keep from laughing out loud, the irony was so intense, I thought I would explode with laughter, until it got serious.
Something had delayed my wife, so I watched Wrong Way Man shopping for Friendly ice cream for possibly two minutes. He must have picked up and handled, or fondled, every carton in the one cooler, never looking at another brand. Then, a woman with her husband in tow pulled up to the man’s cart. Wrong Way Man started to talk to the woman in a menacing tone, “Lady, you see my cart here! My cart’s right here! You see my cart, lady! It’s right here, right here! You better not touch my cart! This is my cart. You better not touch my cart! My cart is right here! You see that, lady?” She was looking for a different brand of ice cream. She lowered her gaze to the floor and said, “I see your cart, and I will not touch it.” The carts were head to head, about six inches apart. I was beside the carts with enough room for someone to pass between us, but I moved my cart so that either one could finish their shopping and get by easily without anyone ‘touching’ anyone else’s cart. The tirade by Wrong Way Man sounded like Dustin Hoffman’s rant in Midnight Cowboy. I would have a link, but there is vulgarity in it. I heard that Hoffman added the rant off script when a car in the scene got too close. He yelled at the driver that he was walking here!!!!
Then, Wrong Way Man raised his gaze. Wrong Way Man was short and stocky. The woman’s husband was about a head and a half taller but may not have weighed as much. Wrong Way Man then said, “Yeah, you heard me, Mister! I was talking to your WIFE! Your WIFE, I was talking to her. I put her in her place. And she’s gonna do as I say. You hear that!?” At this point, I thought about stepping into the fray and telling each to get their ice cream and leave peacefully, but that might have escalated the situation. The husband did not say a word. He simply looked down on Wrong Way Man and glared. If the lady’s husband’s look could melt, the store would be selling flavored cream instead of ice cream. Now, after nearly five minutes of fondly ice cream, Wrong Way Man grabbed two cartons. (It would be so funny if they were both vanilla after all that time, but I did not see what flavor.) He snarled, turned his cart to go around the lady, and then growled as he rammed his cart into my cart, his cart being the one that the lady should never touch, and I had moved to ensure that I was well out of his way. Then he stormed around the corner, just as my wife rounded the corner in her motorized cart.
My wife asked me what was so funny. When I told her on the way home about Wrong Way Man, she started singing “Only you…” once more.
I have a bad habit of getting frustrated by other drivers and the lack of love we have for other people and grumbling to no one in particular, but with my wife’s musical diversion, the day’s distractions became grand comedy. We cannot show much love for others when we are responding to the evil that they have thrown our way. But, when we see their angry petulance as what it is, their own impotence to make life for themselves better, we can laugh at the comedy and have sympathy with their pain.
Now, is it possible to smile at an angry man and have him lash out in anger at you as a return? Highly possible, but then forgiving him (silently – we don’t want a fight to break out by telling him he’s forgiven!!!)… We can forgive. He did not hit me. He hit my cart. I did not own the cart, nor did he own his.
We should pray for such folks as Wrong Way Man, and the hip checking man, and the drivers on the wrong side of the highway or in the wrong lane. Their day just might be going worse than ours does.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.