SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 100: “No Matter What Happens, Just Believe”

I’m sure you are getting used to my travel journals by now. Some days you hear a lot about my day, others are right to the point. Today, I think we’ll land somewhere in the middle.

Lately, my daughter has been accusing me of being too busy for her, a typical request from an extremely creative nine-year old. But looking at the 365 journals, and seeing how much time I have spent with her on this project alone, I’m pretty convinced that her jab is un-warranted. Especially on this cold rainy evening, as we find ourselves: My wife, daughter and I, at her piano recital.

However, the musical feast was almost not to be. How many of you, even with the best of planning, forget the most important, and at the same time most distant, of traveling tasks? No not the map, ex-nay on the snacks promised to accompany the ride, car is clean? We checked the guest list, and scary Aunt Milly is not going to be there. What then?

The invisibly obvious…Gas!

Crud, fifteen minutes to get there, fuel gauge needle buried into the red. Why do we always say the following statement to ourselves, “No worries… We’ll fill up on the way,” probably one of the top ten dumbest statements of any busy family or person. Yea! Right! No worries!

Two choices now, stop and miss the recital, and receive the consequences of a room full of waiting faces, and we arrive past schedule

No Way! My daughter’s music teacher has a standing rule; we don’t start until everyone performing has arrived. But let me translate what this really means, “Those who are late will never be forgotten for holding up the show,” not really the badge of honor I want to wear tonight.

Or, behind the box of what the heck, choice two, GO FOR IT! DRIVE ON FUMES.

I go with, what the heck box, we’ll do it right, if we are going to be late, we’ll be really, really late from running run out of propellant. Maybe that way, in worst-case scenario we’ll at least have a story.

Luckily for us, we roll in on fumes, and walk into the recital looking as if all is well in Radstone land.

The performance is cute, 45 minutes piano virtuosos followed by four napkins of catered egg rolls, but the reality is slowly setting in. We’ll be traveling home soon, and the horror of the possibility of running out of gas in heavy rain is becoming brutally apparent.

We luck out, the fuel angels play in our favor, and we chug into a Chevron literally as the car gasps it’s last breaths of fumed motivation. I look at my daughter, “Told you we’d get some quality family time.”

I’ve still not gotten a 365 interview at this point, so I figure, “Hey, an opportunity for more family time.” Gonna drive this jab home tonight. “Let’s see if we can find someone who wants to be in 365.” She is in faster than I am, and before I can shoulder my camera bag, she is in the rain looking for friends. I love this kid.

Into the store we go, asking everyone we see. All decline for one reason or another. Watching this set of exchanges is the proprietor, Umesh. I’m thinking he is going to throw us out for bothering people. Turns out completely the opposite of how things play out. Bottom line, Umesh stands forward in being today’s 365 contributor.

He teaches me a thing or two about kindness to others. First off, the station is crazy busy. There is hardly a second when no one is at the counter where he is working. But even with this pace of customers, he is open to questions and thoughtful in his responses.

The other thing about Umesh that impresses me is his attentativeness to his customers. Everyone receives a smile and a sincere “Have a good evening.” He tells me, “Too many people are too stressed and need to slow down.” We’ve heard that one before, haven’t we?

Umesh has a dialect, but his English is regal. The sort of voice you hear from diplomats and royalty.

I find out that he is a recent immigrant from Sri Lanka. “I came here two and a half years ago, and I prepared for three years to make to move.”

Here is something I did not know. In order to get a student visa, you have to show one hundred thousand dollars of cash assets. Being an alien myself, parents migrated from the UK in the early sixties, I have a great respect for those who go through the legal channels, working and saving to come to America.

Umesh talk of America with pride. He says, “Everything is possible here.”

“And with faith in God, I’m positive all will work out.” Umesh blends this perspective into the council he shares with us, “No matter what happens, just believe, in the end you will be in a good place.”

A lot of people talking of God over the last few weeks, could it be the season, or are we starting to get an idea of what is core to many? One hundred days down now. I’m sure time will reveal the answer to us.

“In Sri Lanka I was an Investment Advisor, and I am now going to college studying marketing and business. One day I want to own a station like this one.”

“I really like my job, I meet all kinds of people and enjoy talking to them all.” In this claim, Umesh proves to me of his intent, to be a positive contributor to the country that is offering him a new life of opportunity.

It is clear that he feels privileged to be in the United States, and has charted a respectful course.

His example can be taken by us all, and in his words of encouragement, I am in agreement. Those words, “Hard Work Pays Off!”

Umesh, Keep your shoulder to the wheel, my friend.

For me, my evening path is one-dimensional. As my mother always says when I am driving, “Home James (a British reference to a cab driver).

No worries Mom, I have a full tank of gas.