The Other Side of the Tracks

When the lease was up on our second vehicle last fall, I suggested we see what it's like without it. I don't work night and weekend hours anymore. Why leave a perfectly good car to collect salt and pollen at the train station? And as a result of driving there, I discovered another world, no, I mean two worlds. 

Each side of the railroad track features a flip side morning experience, almost like heaven verses, well, you know. It works like this... the parking lot closest to the platform where the train arrives is convenient, but, as with most things that look too good to be true, its advantages are swapped out for hellacious stress. There's speeding, honking, careening vehicles and drivers arguing over parking spaces.

Good morning.

The opposite side - the only side I've ever known until now - is where my husband parks. Commuters walk further to get to the platform, which entails scaling a tall flight of steps, one up and one down and a bridge in between. But it's serene and spaces are plentiful. There's even been a cozy booth-like setup near the steps where, if you'd like, non-intrusive folks will discuss End Times with you before you cross. It's always been calm, no problems.

But there's been a rupture in the veil that separates the virtual Land of Meridian parking lot from the lawless chaos of the other side. Word must have leaked about its civility and ease   (or people are getting thrown out of the other lot).  The bridge has been breached. They're comin' over! 

I know this to be true, because about a month ago, I dropped my husband off near the stairs leading to the bridge, not in front of them, just near them. (Sound defensive? Wait.) Weather was inclement, so I stayed until the last minute. 

A man driving a pickup truck sped sharply around our car and jerked to a stop in a parking spot. What the hell was that? I wondered, as he passed. Was he giving me the fish eye, seething? I wouldn't look. What a hothead! I said. But just to minimize drama, I keep one ear open in case there’s some tweak I need to make. The next day, we took a parking spot a short distance from the steps, out of harm's way. No biggie.

After my husband left, while I organized for my departure (like answer a phone call, return a text, balance the New York State budget) a truck's headlights reflected off my rear view mirror. What now? Even in the pre-sunrise hours, in a near empty parking lot, the pickup truck driver was waiting for my spot! Are you kidding? When I didn't react fast enough, he took another space.

There is no reserved parking spot in a lot where we all require stickers on our vehicles. But, again, how important was it to point this out? Not very. 

The next day, I chose yet another spot. When the hub got out of the car, while I scrolled through a to-do list, horn honks broke my concentration. I looked in my rear view and saw a driver in a white car waiting for my spot. (This was starting to feel like sharing a one bathroom house with eleven people.) Stunned, I looked around to see why he was eyeing my space in particular. Had the lot filled?


While I remained in suspended animation, the driver sped off to another spot. He sprang out of his car, a backpack hanging off one shoulder, a set of car keys dangling from his mouth and bolted for the steps that led to the train, which passengers had boarded on the other side of the bridge. (If this were baseball, it was now the bottom of the 9th, tie score, bases loaded, two outs, three balls, two strikes. And the pitch...)  He bound the steps, sprint across the bridge, back down the other side and made the train. Home run! Way to go horn honker!

Okay, so maybe the parking lot was a little boring before. 

And here it was again, the dang issue of rituals again... eating certain foods on holidays, parking in the same spot, driving the same routes, and never venturing from the same seat or section in church, theaters and restaurants. Maybe it's human nature, the need or desire to keep a finger on a pulse of particular activities, if just to experience the continuity of its rhythm. 

I thought about this need when I worked for a high-end retailer, when a woman brought in an ancient alarm clock, featuring the company brand. It doesn't work anymore, she said, distraught. Was there any way I could fix it?  One look in her eyes and I knew it wasn't about the clock.  It was about losing one more familiar friend, and, really... with what could I replace that?  

Teenagers radiate a youthful glow even when at times their whole world feels like it's falling apart. I know that was true for me. But it was in that period when faith was described to me as a relationship with the one who gave his life to secure a spot for each of us, if we want it, in a place that will make the best of this world look like a snoozer.  Here, where clocks break and the proverbial bridges are breached, we see glimmers of God's mighty love in the people and places that reflect it.

I wasn't able to repair the woman's clock, but I offered her a new version (thinking, eh, don't get hooked on this one either) and she talked a bit, until the wrinkles in her forehead disappeared.


So this morning, the horn honker drove into his usual parking spot and leapt out of his car, keys dangling from his mouth. He faced the tracks. But where was the train? Why did he have a clear view of the platform? This man who had no doubt breached the bridge from the other side of the tracks, who arrived late each morning seeking his parking spot, froze beside his car, still with the keys dangling from his mouth. He was early! There'd be no bets to wager, no proverbial baseball game to watch. He looked disoriented. (And threw my whole morning off.) 

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
— James 1:17