About “So close”:
Do you ever have those moments where at first exactly ALL THE SIGNS indicated that you were headed toward an epic accomplishment (one to celebrate for days to come, fist-bump your friends over) only you suddenly fall ridiculously and embarrassingly short at the very last second? I have these moments on a regular basis and they are often spectacularly humiliating. Am I alone in this? I hope not. This is why I’ve created the “SO close” segment of this blog. Maybe you’ll find yourself in my stories, maybe you’ll post some of your own. At the very least, I hope they are useful for a good laugh and leave you feeling a bit better about yourself because at least you’re not that girl.
SO close, circa 2011
At the time we were in the middle of a sermon series in which we were encouraged to be intentional at reaching out to people in our local community. For example, we were told to go through the actual checkout line (not the self-checkout) and say hello to the attendant, go inside the bank (instead of using the automated teller), etc. Basically, in our primarily automated world, get face to face with some actual humans.
So when my husband got the stomach flu and wanted 7-up AND I was out of gas, I thought to myself, “Cool, I’ll start pumping my gas and then I will buy my 7-up inside and say hi to the nice attendant.” Boom. Sermon lived out.
I went inside, said a simple, “hello, how are you?” and before I knew it, I was completely immersed in a perfect stranger’s tragedy. This dear woman had recently lost two family members in a matter of days. Two deaths, two funerals. I did everything I could to extend compassion and sorrow for this person I’d only just laid eyes on for the first time. The conversation lasted for quite a while, I was overwhelmed at the privilege that she had let me in to her pain, and was feeling COMPLETELY convicted by my habitually automated life. Why had it taken the stomach flu for me to actually stand face to face with a stranger instead of a machine? All of these emotions + now being 100% off my routine = getting in my car with exactly zero thoughts about the gas I had been pumping prior to all of this.
So, I drove away, praising God for this opportunity, vowing to be more intentional at being face to face, praying for this sweet woman, when about a mile up the road I hear this repetitive, “clank… clank…clank-clank”. I could not for the life of me figure out what was causing this. I glanced over in my passenger side mirror and to my absolute shock and horror I saw a long gas hose flapping wildly in the wind!!! THE WHOLE ENTIRE HOSE! Oh my gosh.
I am now freaking out. FREAKING. OUT. I pull over in the nearest parking lot where a delivery person was unloading his truck. He saw me walk around to my dangling, stolen hose and I realized that there was no possibility of avoiding eye contact at this point. So, as I was shoving the hose into the back of my car, I looked over at him and said dramatically, “Are you have THIS kind of day???” To which he said nothing (there really are no words for this kind of lunacy) and stared at me with a hint of amusement, but mostly shock at this rarely seen level of stupidity.
As I began my DRIVE OF SHAME back to the gas station, I was already rehearsing how in the whole world I was going to explain this to my husband. “Uuuuuhm, honey…you see…I sort of stole a gas hose, so…” How was this even a real thing? For crying out loud.
And what even was the whole story I would be telling? Was the gas at that very moment just spilling out everywhere without its nice hose attachment? Was the station about to explode? Had it already? What exactly does a gas pump cost anyways? And I had a fair bit of time to wonder all of this in my brain because, let me remind you, it took me an ENTIRE MILE to even notice what I’d done. (giant eye roll)
When I arrived back the station, the lady ran out to meet me, explained how she and another employee had stared in shock and disbelief as I drove away with the stolen hose, quite powerless to stop me. She was also quick to explain, however, that I am, oddly, not the first person to have done this, so the gas companies install quick release valves at the top of the hoses for just such occasions. Huh. Who knew? So, with a quick snap, the valve was replaced and all was right with the world again. Well, except for my badly damaged pride. Except that.
So what could’ve been a simple, happy reminder of the importance of human connection and a success story at intentionally choosing people over automation ended up, well…SO close.