Storms, and Bookstores, and Accordions…Oh My

There are days where you start out with a plan.  Maybe you have a goal in mind, errands to do, an outing, etc.  You decide on a course, confident you will follow it and accomplish what you set out to do; and then fate steps in.

My Sunday started out like this; the goal was to acquire activity books for my daughter to be used during our plane flight on our upcoming vacation.  There is a Half Price Books store fairly near our house, and they often have new ones for cheap, so this was the intended location of the morning.  (A little background…  The weather here – Ohio state – has been volatile lately.  Very hot, humid, and stormy.  Two nights ago we had a particularly nasty storm; 80 mph straight-line winds, power outages, downpours, lots of damage.  Many areas of town were still recovering through the weekend.)  My daughter and I had already wandered over to Half Price Books on Saturday, only to discover they were closed as a result of no power.  However, I was again in the area later that day, and the traffic lights and a couple of businesses looked operable.  I assumed the grid was back up, so we decided to try again the next day.

With our mission in mind we again headed out Sunday morning for our destination.  Unfortunately, they were still closed with no power.  A little frustrated but undeterred, we decided to head a bit farther out to another HPB location so we could acquire our intended loot.  After 20 more minutes in the car and some overly dramatic radio sing-a-longs, we arrived.  There were markedly few cars in the area, and upon inspection we learned that this location was also out of power.  Ugh.  The plan for the day was unraveling quickly…

Given that our trip was looming, and I didn’t have the luxury of more HPB locations nor lots of time to wait for power fixes (some areas at this point were estimating 5-7 days before repair), we broke down and decided to head for the full-price shelves of Barnes & Noble which was very nearby.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite fond of B&N and browse there often.  But for activity books that my girl will use and abuse on a plane and then dispose of quickly, I would really much prefer the budget route.  However, with a little selective browsing and a trip through the sales rack, we wound up getting out of B&N without breaking the bank.

After a nice girls lunch full of laughs and funny faces (not to mention odd looks from other patrons), we decided to meander over to Whole Foods before heading home.  Shortly after we walked in, I noticed the familiar strains of accordion music drifting through the air.  Leaning over to my daughter, I whispered in her ear, “Remember the accordion man I showed you the picture of not too long ago?  He’s here.”  “NO WAY!!  WHERE?!?”,  was the loudly excited reply.  It took a few tries, but I finally convinced her that where he was located was outside of the checkout area, and we needed to quickly gather our purchases and pay for them before we could go see him.  The plus side of this was it helped to get her to be uncharacteristically helpful while we shopped for the few things we needed, and kept her from being as handsy as she normally is.

We checked out quickly and made our way over to the same spot I found him in before; a chair in the corner of the eating area.  I wasted no time walking up to him today, and saying a hearty hello.  The big grin I remembered from the first time I saw him (you can read about it here) was just as sparkly, and he was obviously happy to have company.  I reminded him I was the woman who took his picture a few short weeks ago, and apologized for not having caught his name.  “It’s Burt!” he said excitedly.  I introduced myself and my daughter, who was suddenly very shy.  He pulled a chair up for us and encouraged us to sit down and listen, which we did, my daughter on my lap.  It was so sweet the way he showed her his accordion (“64 years old with lots of duct tape, but it still plays just fine!”), and picked out songs he thought she would know (such as ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’).  My daughter relaxed and opened up once the music began into play.  She loved the tunes immensely, and I loved watching her listen and smile.

What I didn’t expect was to be caught off guard when he started playing ‘When Irish Eyes Are Smiling’.  I found myself tearing up as I was suddenly my daughter’s age, sitting in my childhood living room, watching my father play the accordion as I marveled how he could work such an amazing contraption.  Somewhat of a surreal experience as I held my own daughter on my lap.  As Burt shifted to ‘Tura Lura Lura’ the memory continued, and was compounded by thoughts of my large Irish family and my grandfather’s funeral.  I had no sooner started to dab at my eyes when my daughter turned and asked, “Momma, are you crying?  You’re not supposed to cry, dry it up lady!!” She said it in the funniest way I just had to laugh, then we both laughed, and then Burt laughed because he probably had no idea what happened but thought laughing was a great idea and joined in for the heck of it.

We listened a little while longer and then said our goodbyes.  Burt asked us to please come listen again, and we promised we would.  As we exited the store I mentioned to my daughter that it was probably a good thing the power was out in the Half Price Books that day, or we never would have run in to Burt and his accordion at all, for we would have been nowhere near the Whole Foods store.  Our original plan would have had us in, out, and home in a flash.  As it turns out, the revised events for the day held much more adventure and richness than my original plan could possibly have garnered.  I supposed plans aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, now are they?  Often times it’s the unplanned that yields the biggest rewards.

Split Second Karma

I have a confession to make; I greatly dislike eggs with runny yolks. We all have them – those idiosyncrasies about us that exist without explanation. One of mine just happens to be runny eggs; it’s not so much dislike as despise, really. For me, they rank right up there in the “irrational things that freak people out category”. So much so that, this morning, I lied to my husband – who had so kindly made breakfast for the family – in order not to hurt his feelings. You see, my daughter loves her eggs that way, which is why he chose that method. She dips her toast in them; she even has a nickname for them, calling them “the poach” (which, clearly, is an incorrect reference to the manner in which they’re cooked, but she continues the misnomer even after numerous corrections). And this morning upon seeing his culinary creation and hearing my daughter’s delight (“Daddy made my favorite poach, Momma!”) I didn’t have the heart to criticize his efforts, nor did I have the stomach to pretend to consume them. So I feigned lack of hunger, said my goodbyes, and headed off to work.

Confession number two: I am a sucker for Starbucks breakfast sandwiches (though I have never been a coffee drinker, so how I got sucked into their franchise in the first place still baffles me). So when my empty stomach began protesting about 15 minutes into my drive-time, I began anticipating the exit quickly approaching where I knew there was an easily accessible Starbucks drive-thru. The freeway traffic at this point was fairly clear, as I’d left the house early. I pulled off, procured my prize, and was back en route within about 10 minutes time.

But the freeway I returned to in no way resembled the one I’d just left. Upon entering the on-ramp, I could see that I was heading toward a massive wall of grid-locked cars that were barely moving. Glancing farther up the lanes (there are three at this juncture) I could see that all of them were stacked; it was as if I’d left a deserted country lane and returned to a downtown New York street in rush hour.

Clearly something had literally just happened. My suspicion was confirmed when I suddenly heard sirens, and all of us in the three lanes quickly had to converge into two in order to let first an ambulance, then a fire engine pass. By this point we were crawling along, and I was able to make out additional emergency lights not too far ahead. I spent the next 20-40 minutes inch-worming with the rest of the traffic as we all now merged into one lane and, eventually, followed a serpentine pattern through where there had obviously been a fairly large collision (verified by the radio traffic team to have included four vehicles).

The congestion combined with the delay was initially very frustrating. Especially since my whole point of leaving the house early this morning was to get to work early and get some tasks out of the way before all the hustle and bustle began in the office. But when I got to the point of the accident itself, I noticed two officers clearing a motorcycle – now void of its rider – out of the way. It made me pause; first in the hope that that rider, and the other drivers involved were hopefully not seriously injured. But then, I thought of the timing of the whole scene. How it really seemed to come out of nowhere in the short time it took me to exit and then re-enter the freeway. 10 little minutes to purchase a breakfast sandwich; had something that banal really changed the outcome of my day? And, if so, in which direction?

I am a firm believer in Karma. I truly feel that for whatever energy you choose to put out into the universe – good, bad, positive, negative – you will somehow receive the same. And on this morning, when I realized how this little 10 minute shift may have affected me, it made me wonder for just a moment, “hmmm…good Karma, or bad?” I initially assumed that perhaps I had bad Karma for lying to my husband about breakfast and was now stuck in traffic being late for work. But when I thought about it further, I wondered if it was possible I was receiving good Karma for some other past action, and had narrowly missed being in the accident myself. For if I had stayed on the freeway and not exited, if I had not given up those 10 minutes of travel, I surmise that I would have been in that exact spot at almost that exact time; the same spot where they removed the broken, riderless motorcycle from.

I chose to believe the latter, and instead carried myself with a little extra caution for the rest of the day. Feeling like I narrowly missed disaster already, I guess I didn’t want to chance it. Though I’m sure the egg incident will come back at me in some form, or another; it’s really only a matter of Karmic timing.