Kathy Bradley is an author, newspaper columnist, speaker, and prosecuting attorney in Georgia. Her book, "Breathing and Walking Around: Meditations on a Life" was awarded the inaugural Will D. Campbell Prize for Creative Nonfiction in 2010 and garnered her the Georgia Author of the Year Award for Essay in 2013.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
As adventures go, it wasn’t a particularly exciting, frightening, or life-changing one. In fact, most people wouldn’t call it an adventure at all. I do because I define adventure as anything that requires me to do something risky or that interrupts my plans or even that I will at some point in the future have the opportunity to recount to some unsuspecting soul by uttering the words, “Oh, that reminds me of the day I ...”
It happened like this: I’m leaving town for a couple of days, headed to Tallahassee to speak about and read from the book I wrote. I’ve gotten as far as Reidsville and stopped for gas. Tank full and iPod buds back in my ears, I turn the key. The Escape (a/k/a the Bradley Fighting Vehicle) doesn’t start. I try again. Nothing. Again. Still nothing.
I look around to make sure that no one is waiting for my pump. Deep breath. One more try. Failure.
That’s okay. No need to panic. I have Triple-A. I walk around to take a look at the rear windshield where my Triple-A decal is barely visible underneath the road dust. I read off the 800 number and repeat it to myself as I walk back to get my phone. Triple-A answers on the first ring and a young woman who was obviously hired because her voice is as soothing as a mother’s hand on a fevered brow says, “First of all, are you in a safe location?”
Within two minutes a wrecker has been dispatched to a location whose address I do not know and which I can describe only by saying, “It’s a Clyde’s Market across the street from the courthouse.” I notice that I am not nervous. My palms are not sweating. I am not imagining the horrible inconvenience it is going to be if I don’t make it to the speaking engagement tomorrow. I am surprised at this.
The wrecker is going to tow the Escape back to Sandhill and I need to locate other transportation, so I pull out the telephone book I keep in the sliding drawer beneath the passenger seat and open the Yellow Pages to Automobile Rental. I call four places. No one has a car.
I take a deep breath. And before I am consciously aware of what I am doing, I turn the key. It cranks! The Escape is running! And before it has time to change its mind I buckle my seatbelt, throw the phone book to the side, and pull out into the highway. I’m headed to Tallahassee. I won’t stop along the way and if the thing doesn’t start in the morning I can call a cab!
I re-dial Triple-A. Another young lady with the same kind of voice answers. I explain that I no longer need a tow, that I appreciate very much their help, and that I hope she has a nice day. She returns the favor.
It is 196 miles to Tallahassee. That’s a lot of driving time, a lot of time to think about what happened in the Clyde’s parking lot. A lot of time to figure out exactly what it was that made a situation (“car trouble”) that is usually so aggravating, exasperating, and frustrating such a non-event. I consider the possibility that perhaps I have finally reached an optimum level of maturity, enlightenment, or detachment. I discard that possibility when I get behind an RV going 45 miles per hour.
I discard a few other possibilities before I light on the theory that feels exactly right: I managed the situation rather than allowing it to manage me because of one thing, that first question the Triple-A operator asked: “Are you in a safe location?”
When the answer to that question is yes, whether the safe location is a well-lit parking lot, a contented state of mind, or a trustworthy relationship, you are free to give your best efforts to solving the problem, formulating the new idea, creating something that has never existed before. There is no waste of energy looking over your shoulder or erecting barriers. There is no reason to hold things or people at arms’ length and every reason to embrace them without hesitation. When the answer is yes, everything is an adventure.