He showed up in my final desperate moment. That's when you've tried every mental trick you own to tell yourself that you're not stuck in a parking lot for the night in an unfamiliar city with your cell phone battery nearly dead and your closest emergency contact two hours away.
Then. Right then. That's when James appeared.
He pulled in with his wife riding shotgun and climbed out to address me as if he dealt with women on the brink everyday. As a locksmith, he probably does.
Right from the get go, he launched into a story about how he had locked his keys in his vehicle before, too. And all his locksmith tools had also been locked inside.
It's stories like these that take the sting out of your own stupidity...for about a minute.
"Did you call a coworker?" I asked. He answered with an emphatic 'no'. Call for help? Au contraire. He simply took wire from his barbed wire fence and did the job himself.
"Improvise, adapt, and overcome any obstacle. That's what the Seals taught me," he said.
Seals as in Navy. He served for 23 years, a fact that had to be connected to the gold metal loop in his left ear. You don't see gold loop earrings on a white-haired man often, especially not one with an immaculate beard no thinner than a line of ants marching emphatically along his jawline. A man with the precision to keep that trimmed every morning would have no trouble breaking into my vehicle.
And he didn't.
Before he had arrived, I'd stood in the cold for nearly two hours, stopping my periodic pacing to try each door handle on the off chance my vehicle would graciously decide to let me in. But it was Monday. Magic doesn't happen on Mondays. If you're into fairy tales, try Thursday.
James' advice hit me hard...for whatever reason. Maybe because I was freezing and hungry and hurting and had already gone through all five stages of stupidity grieving - denial, anger, sadness, acceptance, defeat.
"Improvise, adapt, overcome." Being a Seal sounded like a lot of work. Also, just like baseball, I knew there was no crying in the Navy. So I was out.
While I had been waiting for James, I'd taken myself for a little walk. Heck, why not. A girl can only stare through her car window at her purse sitting inside for so long before insanity sinks in. Besides, walking gave me an action.
I needed an action.
Instead, I found myself hanging out in front of a closed art gallery because the alcove blocked the wind. Also, there was a buffalo painting there I didn't like at all, but I kept staring at it nonetheless.
Mostly, though, I was just too tired to go any further, too world weary, if you get my meaning. There are days the weight of life settles down heavier than in others. It sags on you, pushes from some unseen force, and permeates the air until even walking is no longer a glide but a boxy, stomping trudge.
Everyone has these days. Everyone. Even James, he assured me. Then he gave me his business card because, hey, I'm not above doing this again, and pointed to the quote printed under his name, "The only easy day was Yesterday." Another military quote, he informed me, and one that he assured me will always be true.
Life has obstacles. Why I'm always surprised by them, I'll never know. When they come, whether the brief ones, like locking yourself out of your transportation, or the interminable ones, like being locked in a life that rarely makes sense, I still find myself taking a moment to ask God, "Really? This?", as if I'm completely surprised life could ever be unfair or hard. And yet it's a truth Jesus made sure we knew from the get go.
"In this world you will have trouble."
Don't doubt, he was saying. Expect it. It's coming. But then He gave us hope.
"But take heart! I have overcome the world."
Don't doubt, he was saying. Expect it. I'm here.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.John 16:33