“Why do holiday stories always include transportation? I mean there were even travelers involved in the story of Jesus of Nazareth.” I was talking to myself, of course, but the guy at the table behind me laughed. I didn’t realize I had said it out loud. I turned and looked. A guy in his mid-sixties was sipping coffee, wearing a look more serious than laughter.
“You believe in Jesus,” he asked, “or more about transporting?” “We’re not personal friends,” I replied, “but my wife believes . . . and I guess so do the kids.” “Yeah, me too. I’m more into transporting . . . you know the kind they had on Star Trek.”
I couldn’t make out this guy. He seemed kinda weird, but then I probably do too. “One of these days I think we’ll probably zip from one place to another over space and time . . . or is it time and space?”
“I’ve never really had the time and sometimes I just stare into space.” Was this guy playing me or what? He talked like a comedian and looked like a mourner. He continued, “Did you read about Elon Musk, the guy who invented the Tesla car? He says we’ll soon be shooting half-way round the world in rockets. A trip that would take hours and hours flying time would just take minutes in a rocket.”
“I didn’t know his name was Elon, but I know he just revealed a new all-electric semi truck and figures his next version will be autonomous.”
He nodded his head . . . sipped some coffee . . . and almost smiled. “Elon is Hebrew for oak tree. I’m not a personal friend of Jesus, either. I’m Jewish.”
I did smile and I almost laughed. I moved to his table and shook his hand. We exchanged our names.
“So, are you from around here?” Here being Portland, Oregon. “Or just passing through?”
“Actually, waiting. I shredded a tire earlier on my Buick LeSabre. Timing is not my strong point. With Christmas tomorrow, it’s probably going to be two more days before I get one to match the others. So, instead of taking the train to Tacoma for Christmas with the family and then taking the train back down here . . . followed by a new tire and driving back home, I thought I would just stay put and hopefully make it up to my wife when I finally get home.”
“Hmmmmm. If I was young and still married, I think I would choose the train and driving combination.” He looked at his coffee cup then me then back to his coffee cup.
This conversation was not going in a good direction for me. He was right of course. I don’t always do what I should, or say what I should, which was why I wasn’t sure of a warm reception when I got home regardless of the day. Now, I was the one just looking at my coffee cup and saying nothing.
He pursed his lips and looked away. “I’m on my way to Seattle. I’ve got no one waiting on me until tomorrow night and that’s just a short meeting. Why don’t you ride to Tacoma with me?”
I started to refuse. He jumped in before I could come up with an excuse. “I don’t have a big old Buick, but we’ll be comfortable.”
In the snow and slush it probably took three hours from Portland to Tacoma, but with a pleasant conversation and sharing it seemed like minutes. I poured my heart out. As we passed Olympia I got out my phone and dialed Diane. I told her I would be home in about twenty minutes. I was about to say goodbye, when my companion snapped his fingers and motioned for the phone. I didn’t know what to do so I passed the phone over to him.
“Diane,” he began “you don’t know me, but I feel as if I’ve known you for years. I need to get home to Seattle, but I would like to meet you. You’re husband has done nothing but talk about you and the kids since we left Portland. I can see love in his eyes each time he mentions your name. You two remind me of my wife and me. Well, we’ll see you in a few.” He handed the phone back to me.
Stunned, I put the phone in my pocket and looked out my window. We drove the rest of the way in silence, well no that’s not really true. There was no conversation, as I tried to keep my sniffing to a minimum, I wiped the tears from my eyes and blew my nose. When he left after meeting Diane, I couldn’t even tell him thank you . . . for the best Christmas present I ever got.