October 13

Debilitating Detours

It was maybe 1988.

The year of the stolen wallet conundrum and the first time I ever got fired. One had nothing to do with the other, but the older I get, the more I think it may have had everything to do with it.

We might have been watching Rain Man or Working Girl, I forget. What I remember very clearly is that when the house lights went up, I found a black wallet on the theatre floor.

Contrary to my do-a-good-turn-daily upbringing, my new husband at the time convinced me to keep it. Sort of. He was often enticing me to do things I didn’t want to do, including marrying him.

But, when someone buys you some stuff and gives you money to get back home and a ride across the country in a Camaro, it would be rude to say, “No,” when they ask you to marry them. I believe it was Friday the 13th.

“Sweet!”

“We have to give it back,” I offered.

“You don’t give it back. When you find a wallet it’s expected that you will keep the money, because you found it. It’s your reward. You are supposed to throw the wallet in the mailbox so they can deliver it to the owner.”

“I’ve never heard of that.”

“Trust me. They are just happy to get all their cards back.”

“Okay,” I agreed. “You’re probably right.”

So I think we pulled out about $22.00. to cover the movie tickets and snacks and still had a little extra gas money for him to get to work that week.

As newlyweds who never should have made it to the altar, we were broke a lot and only had one car. To his credit, he was a hard worker and learned a new school after his military days where he was an at sea loan shark. Eventually, he became a butcher at the local grocery store.

My job in advertising was downtown and much closer to our three-story brick apartment building so I was the one who got to walk.

In the Midwest winter.

Dropping the wallet in the corner mailbox almost felt like a very altruistic thing to do. Except, repeatedly shushing that still small voice only seems to make it get louder and louder, even after the deed is done.

It was sometime around my late teens and early 20’s that I started to get pretty comfortable with compromise. When I hustled my way through the door, brushing snowflakes off my coat shoulders, I was told work started at 8:00 am.

I thought 8:05 was close enough.

So I started a routine of getting there as quick as I could, depending on how my morning was going. Somedays 8:10, 8:04, 8:13.

“Work starts at 8:00. If you can’t be on time, you’re not going to have a job.”

I thought my boss was a derelict.

And came in the next day at 8:01.

“I’m sorry. You are a great worker and everyone really likes you, but we’re going to have to let you go.”

“For being one minute late for work?”

I thought they needed me. I was one of the best employees they had. I was cheerful and funny and worked hard.

I was also perpetually tardy.

One of the things I loved the most about living in Mason was my ability to be on time. When there is no traffic and you live 26 seconds from your office, it’s pretty easy to not get hung up by accidents and rerouting detours.

Initially, I was shocked and thankfully, about three weeks later, was offered my job back.

As I look at my life, forks in the road, decisions I’ve made, and paths I’ve taken, it’s even more shocking to see with clarity now where it clearly started to go wrong.

It was in the silencing and the shushing of that voice that gently said, “No.”

No.

This is not for you.

This is not the way.

To this day, I absolutely despise being late. I still am on occasion, but not without the stress sweat stains to prove it.

When we ignore that voice long enough, we stop hearing it at all. And that’s when we know, we’ve really gotten detoured.

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