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Monday, December 3, 2012

Footprints on My Briefcase

            Like everyone who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, traffic is a daily consideration.  Because I live 20 miles from where I work, traffic and how to deal with it has become an obsession with me.  I know all of the routes to work.  There are no “best routes”.  Some routes are good at certain times and others at other times, and some are no good at any time, except for emergencies.  Like NASA launching a rocket, I have a brief window of time to decide which route to take.  A few minutes past this launch window and I have to go
 to plan B.  A few minutes past this launch window and I go to plan C, etc.,. 
            One day several years ago, my alarm clock failed to alarm.  As I slowly awoke to the sun shining in the window, I gradually became aware that it was 7:30 a.m., one hour past the plan A launch window, 45 minutes past plan B, 30 minutes past plan C, and 15 minutes past plan D.  Plan E was now the only viable plan left.  Plan E, however,  was a very complicated, circuitous route, involving split-second timing, last second lane changes, and luck.
            I hurried out of the house, kissing my son, daughter, and wife on the run, coat and briefcase in hand, scraped the bottom of the car leaving the driveway, and sped out of our neighborhood, visualizing plan E in my head, going over my agenda for the day at the office, and suddenly remembering the 9:00 meeting that I was to facilitate to discuss some problems with our insurance plans with our account manager.
            Ahead of me was the stoplight that I had to make in order to make the next two stoplights.  If I missed this one, I would have to stop at the next two, causing at least a seven minute delay.  The light was changing to yellow.  I began to speed up, knowing that I could make it, if only the car in front of me would speed up just a little.  The car in front slammed on breaks, and squealed to a halt in the middle of the intersection.  I hit my brakes and barely missed rear-ending him.  I backed up to let him get out of the intersection.
            Sitting there, I began running over in my mind all the things I needed to do, all the things that had to be done, and I felt my heart begin to pound, and I could hear the sound of it in my temples.  I reached over on the passenger side of the car and pulled my briefcase off the floor onto the seat.  I was going to open it and pull out my recorder to begin recording some of my thoughts on some of my projects, when I noticed the imprint of two small feet on the leather top of the briefcase.
            These footprints stopped me.  I gazed at them.  They were my two year old son’s.  He had stood on top of my brief case.  I looked at those feet.  So small.  Every detail perfectly imprinted.  A horn behind me sounded.  The car in front of me had long since gone.   I drove to the next light and stopped.  I looked over at the footprints.  For some reason, I felt like crying.  The light changed and I drove to the next light.  It no longer bothered me that I was late and had to stop at these stoplights.  I no longer wanted to go to work.  I wanted to sit somewhere and figure out what was happening to me.  I saw a restaurant up ahead and pulled into the parking lot.  I took my briefcase and walked inside.  I lay the briefcase down on top of a table and sat down.  I ordered coffee and for the next hour  I sat, looking at those feet.
            My son’s footprints seemed to represent a great mystery that needed to be solved.  I thought of his birth and how it seemed so wonderful to have a son.  I wondered what kind of person he would grow up to be.  I wondered how he would remember me.  Was I being the kind of father that he needed?  Why was I in such a hurry to leave him every morning and why did I not run home to him at the earliest possible time in the afternoon?  What was it about this work that I did and how could it compare to the person who made these footprints?  I thought of him in my arms, with his arms around my neck and his head on my shoulder.  Nothing could be more important.
            I arrived at my office, two hours late.  My important meeting was postponed.  Things that were supposed to be done got done.  Memos were written.  Phones were answered.  And nothing I did that day seemed to matter.  In fact, I left the office a few minutes early.

Copyright ©2012 by Eric Lanier.   The right to download and store the materials from this website is granted for your personal use only, and the materials may not be produced or reproduced in any edited form. Any other reproduction or editing by any means, mechanical or electronic, without the express written permission of Eric Lanier is strictly prohibited. For additional information, contact Eric Lanier at ericelanier@gmail.com

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