Death Valley…. 4 Corners…. 3 miles past the Kansas/Colorado border…. The drive around the Great Salt Lake, after exit 91, going west…. I-80, from Rawlins to Rock Springs in Wyoming…. I would lump these places (and all others that have no food/water/or bright shiny objects to look at) into the DESOLATE folder of my travel-a-mony, shove it back into my file cabinet of boring memories, and go out to play.
Except for this.
In each spot, and for no good reason that i can tell, ( and when i was at my most mind-numbing, bored-out-of-my-guts part of the trip, wanting to turn around and never speak of it again), something amusing happened. I either saw, or experienced something that made it JUST worth it enough to keep going. Nooo, aliens did not abduct me, (although i was begging for it. I mean, honestly, when my option for music was the gospel/mariachi/medical channel, or the all-sound-effects-all-the-time channel, who can blame me, right?) What did happen is some ……SOMETHING…….. happened to pull me out of my self pity, let me focus for a bit, and that solved the problem enough for me to move through to my destination. It could have been that concrete Tree of Life sculpture (you know, with the big ol balls hanging off it?), or what i swore was a 2 headed hawk circling over a dead deer in a field. It could have even been that cattle truck wreck caused by the high winds, bad roads, and curve at milepost 176. Good or bad, they were heavensent to me, because they let me move forward with something else on my mind.
Interestingly enough, I feel that being put on hold, pressing 2 to speak in my native language, or having to repeat my issue to several people in a row makes me feel just as desolate. When i call a number to get assistance with an issue, I’m assuming that they can assist me, they are qualified to do so, they have already had their morning coffee, and no one has peed in their wheaties. It makes me guffah at my self a bit when i catch myself dumbfounded as i’m being put on hold with the 3rd operator, somewhere around the world, who is very politely and enthusiastically letting me know i don’t have a problem at all, that it is all in my head.
“Really?” I think. “Am i this crazy/stupid/out of touch?” Is this what the assistance number is for then, for us silly people to be enlightened as to the reality that we don’t actually have a problem, that WE ARE the problem?
I’m assuming, as some others do, that we have to fight through this muddled question to get to the end result. “ok, i don’t care who’s the idiot. i just need my ……(fill in the blank with what my need is here)……. to be better!” So i press whichever buttons on my phone connect me to whichever man/woman/child is smarter than me in this arena, and grit my teeth while i go through the song and dance that is the customer service phone call nightmare. No wonder i am feeling desolate. WHO CAN SAVE ME FROM THIS???
And then, SOMETHING happens. SOMEONE takes pity on me. for instance, Jerry in Kansas. he is my savior this week. I needed something, i didn’t know how to get that something to work, and he did. Instead of sending me around the world and back just to see if i really REALLY wanted his help, he talked with me. mano y mano. Yeah, i just pulled out the mano y mano bit. Because i felt like a person to him. I felt like he wanted to solve my problem. I KNOW!!!!! ODD, that.
It was like that wreck on the side of the road all over again. You know they are out there. You know that you could happen upon it at any time, and yet when you are lucky enough to see it, to experience it, you don’t know what to do with it until you are past it and have to appreciate it in hindsight.
“What was that?” you wonder, driving by at 80. “Was that a deer? an orangutan?” “And what was the truck it was hooked to?” All these things go by as you make sure you are not the rubber-necker that is holding up traffic, but in your mind, you think up a plausible story to go with the flash of what you saw. How the truck had to have run up the side of the hill to get that animal smacked just right….. How old the deer was.. did it have a family?….. …… …… What? you do’nt do that? You might not have gone the desolate places i have then.
The same thing with the phenomonen of having a live operator actually know what he is talking about, and be polite, AND do what it takes to solve the problem. “WHO is this genius?” “Why is he talking with me? shouldn’t he be in a board meeting or something?” “what kind of donuts does he like, and where could i send a shipment to say thank you?” “Does he have kids or a love life? No how could he, if he is this dedicated to knowing an answer on this line.” …. … …. And it keeps me going through all the hoops and beeps that it takes for me to get back to Jerry, just in case i drop the line.
Not only that, it keeps me wondering all the next times that i have to go back into the land of service operators. “How bout now? could i be lucky twice in my life? could i get another Jerry?” No! of course not. those only come around every once in a lifetime. I get pandered back and forth from Noah, who has forgotten to be interested in me as a customer, and Patricia, who is actually picking her teeth while on line with me. I can tell from the sucking sound she makes when i’m talking. the “thwup thwup thwup” sound of air going through her teeth. The wet smacking sound of the finger in the back of her mouth….. ew. She’s no Jerry. But , i reason, Jerry served a purpose. Jerry kept me going when i wanted to turn back. Jerry will keep me going when i have to travel back into customer service land as the elusive miracle. Thank you Jerry. you were my Tree of Life in the desolate places of phone land. Please let me know where to send the Krispy Kremes.