All along the way of my as yet unfinished cross-country journey, I have been blessed by various angels in human — and electronic — form. These angels have given me shelter in bad weather, brought me companionship in loneliness, taught me cosmic and earthly lessons, gifted me with books, taken me to wondrous events. And sometimes have steered me to safety.
When I left St. Ansgar after my stint of playing innkeeper, I’d planned to take US 63 straight south to have lunch with a friend in Rolla, Missouri. I turned on Google maps to help me get through Waterloo, Iowa, and for some reason, the app sent me on a huge loop around US 63 almost to the Illinois border. As I approached a snarl of highway intersections I needed help navigating, Google maps decided to quit. Fearing I would get hopelessly lost on my own, I took the nearest exit off the highway so I could reset the app. I pulled into a gas station, did my little chores, but could not drive away — the accelerator pedal, which had been sluggish, became rusted into immobility. (Although the bug has been partly restored — paint job, new seat covers, rebuilt engine and transmission — it is still a forty-four-year-old vehicle, with the crotchets and creakings of the elderly. The bug has spent most of its life in dry climes, and doesn’t quite know what to do about the great humidity it has encountered recently except to quietly succumb to rust in inconvenient spots.)
I played around with the pedal and the throttle. Discovered that the throttle was fine — the culprit was the hinge on the pedal itself. Unfortunately, the gas station store was out of 4D40. I explained my predicament and, taking pity on me, the manager rummaged in the back room for some sort of lubricant. When she didn’t find anything suitable, she went to a store shelf, grabbed a bottle of Dawn, told me to pour a few drops of the detergent on the hinge, and bring the bottle back. So I did. The pedal immediately loosened, and I continued my journey, wondering about the incident. Would things have worked out the same if I had taken the route I’d planned? Had Google purposely taken me to safety or was it simply coincidence? Google ex machina or a strange sort of luck?
And now another angel is coming to my aid. I’d purchased an external battery to use for enmergency phone recharges since my ancient car has no cigarette lighter or other electrical source to charge modern devices, and after a few uses the battery stopped working. I notified the company, and they volunteered to send me a new one. I gave them the address of a woman in Kansas (another online-now-offline friend) who had invited me to visit. I thought the package would arrive within the week of my visit and I would be able to head out before I became too much of a stink. (Wasn’t it Benjamin Franklin who said fish and visitors stink after three days?) What I didn’t know was that the battery pack was coming via Royal Mail. Still, it got to Chicago in just a few days but sat around untended for even more days. (It will take longer to get from Chicago to Kansas than from England to Chicago.) My friend has graciously agreed to let me stay here until the package arrives, though I am sure she would be just as glad to see me on my way. Still . . . there is a major heat wave extending all along my proposed route. And my being here a few more days will — I hope — allow me to travel in less dangerous weather.
Who knew I would find an unwitting and unintentional angel in Kansas?
Ah, I am blessed.
Of course, no one has asked my various angels if they wish to be cast in such a role, but so far they have allowed themselves to be swept up in the energy of my journey.
Yep. Truly blessed.
(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)