Monday, April 1, 2013

The Change: 20

Chanting Propaganda

(This is an ongoing story. If you want to start at the beginning, click here.)

“Mom, you’re spewing your chanting propaganda again.”  This is what my son said to me when I told him the only reason we made the train was because I chanted.  “This whole experience was bad luck, not good luck,” he said.

I can’t tell the story about AE without talking about chanting, because somehow they go together, even though I can’t say how for sure.

My son and I took a train trip up to Providence on President’s Day. He’ll be going to school there in the fall and they had a program for incoming freshmen. It was bitterly cold up there that day, so I was wearing a full down coat and long johns under my clothing. We’d stayed in a hotel the night before, so I was carrying a backpack full to the brim with necessities like clothes and pajamas, a yoga mat, a book I didn’t once crack open, notebooks, headphones, almonds.  I don’t know what all else was in there but it was heavy and cumbersome. When it was on my back, I felt like a cranky turtle.

The school is maybe a mile from the train station, easily walkable, even with a backpack on, and even with an abundance of clothing, but my foot ached from my work with AE and I couldn’t make the walk.

You can’t hail a cab in Providence (well, I guess you could if there were any around, but there weren't), so I picked up a list of cabs from the student center and started calling them a little before 4:00, leaving us ample time to make our 4:44 train.

The first three companies said they had no one available.  I wasn’t expecting that response and started reassessing my ability to walk the mile to the station. The fourth call I made yielded better results.

“I don’t have anyone in the area right now but I can get someone there in about 15 minutes,” the dispatcher said.

“I have a 4:44 train,” I told him.

“Not to worry. It’s a two-minute drive. You’ll be there in plenty of time.”

Eighteen minutes later I called him back. “Where’s my cab?” I asked. “It’s coming,” he said. “I’m nervous,” I said. “Don’t be,” he said, “it’ll be there in 10 minutes.”

Eleven minutes later I called him again. “Um, I’m kind of freaking out,” I said. “Ma’am, I know you’re anxious, but I can’t stay on the phone with you,” he said. “It’s almost 4:30,” I said. “The cab will be there within six minutes,” he said.

“Dude,” I said, “I called you at 4:00 and you said 15 minutes.”

Apparently some people find the term “Dude” a less-than-affectionate moniker and this gentleman was one of those people. “Do you want me to cancel the call?” he asked. I said no, but the truth is, I didn’t think the cab was ever coming anyway. It was starting to get dark and even if I could walk, I didn’t know my way to the train station. I felt like we were doomed.

On a whim, I called another cab company.  They picked up, put me on hold and never came back on the line.

I called Scott back home and asked him what I should do. “If you miss the train, get on the next train. What else can you do?” he said.

It was 4:33 and there was nothing else to do.  I considered walking up to random cars stopped at the light and asking them if they’d take us to the train for $20. But instead, I chanted. Quietly. Under my breath. And only for about 15 seconds. When I chant with a purpose, it’s a little like a prayer, and this prayer was simply to get us out of this mess.

That’s when the black SUV pulled up to the light.  It had a big green Pegasus airbrushed on the back panel, which made it look a little like a head shop on wheels.  What it did not have was a TAXI sign on the roof, so I just assumed it was a delivery vehicle for some groovy eatery. I watched as two people got into Pegasus. The driver clicked and swiped the screen of her pink-covered iPad for a minute and then she pulled away, making a right turn up the hill.

Just then my cell phone buzzed. “Your car is there, Ma’am.”

“Where?” I said. “I don’t see any cab!”

“She should be right there,” the dispatcher said.

“The Pegasus car? Do you mean Pegasus is my cab???”

Yes, it was. And in very quick succession, the dispatcher called the cab driver, told her she picked up the wrong fare, she kicked them out of the cab, we ran (I hobbled briskly) up the hill, jumped in the cab, sped to the train station, ran (hobbled briskly) in, asked a policeman which track for Penn Station, ran (and hobbled) down the escalator and stepped through the train doors just as they were about to close.

“Do you know why we’re on this train?” I said to my son after we settled into our seats. And that’s when he derided my chanting.

I can’t explain to him how the thing about chanting is that it’s not all goodness all the time, but it brings a lot of unexpected goodness to sometimes-dire situations. And it is because of this unexpected goodness that I’ve been able to do this work with AE.

The fact that I started chanting a few weeks before my first visit to her was no accident. These two things were meant to occur simultaneously. I couldn't have done this work any other time in my life. I’m not sure exactly why, but I’m absolutely certain that it’s true.


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