The Uphill Slide

There is always something.

Out of Control


“I’ve lost control. My life is not my own.”

I couldn’t find the office for my 2 o’clock appointment. The stenciled name on the glass front of one building proclaimed I had arrived. I saw a buzzer by the door. The number on the building didn’t jive with Google. This must be the right place. The window says so. No one answered. I looked up at the empty windows on the 2nd floor. I walked to the Google address. There was a business on the 1st floor and steps leading to a walled loft with a small hall. Her name was not the one above a buzzer. I was confused. I walked back to the street and called. “I’m on Main Street. Am I at the right place?” The assistant told me the Google address was right. I walked up and rang the buzzer with someone else’s name. No answer from the dark beyond. I sat down sweating under my hat from the warm air rising from the first floor to my bench claiming most of the hall space. I made another call to an answering machine. “My appointment is at 2 o’clock. Right?”

A few minutes later an assistant called back. “Yes. She’s running late.” I sat and waited. She arrived 20 minutes late with someone else who caught up with her on the street. He wanted her time too. She put me in an office with paperwork while she talked to the unscheduled appointment. She apologized and commented her assistant said I didn’t seem happy. I wasn’t. I was confused by the incongruity of a name in one spot and an address in another and the name on the buzzer that didn’t match her. Tardiness added to first impressions. And I had a schedule to keep. I accepted the apology and knew her excuse was true. She didn’t need to explain how things work. We talked. No conversation a waste. I was adding to my collage of others like her. I shared that I wanted to be her once. She said I still could.

Her tardiness had infected me. I drove towards daycare not sure if I would make it in time. Then a microburst slammed my car. Standing water in both lanes of traffic leading south. I twisted the lever on wipers that were already working as fast as they could. My speed adjusted to conditions. I was losing time in my rush. Close to the city, the rain slowed and dissipated. But it had a lasting effect. Traffic was backed up. I crept along looking across the river at a fading rainbow. I took an opportunity to give up my place in line and climbed some hills. But I was going to be late and now someone might be irritated with me. It was lucky that I’ve learned how to get from Point A to Point B in different ways.

I was 10 minutes late to pick up Caleb and about 15-20 to pick up Cary. The domino effect of tardiness. I pulled along the curb ignoring the “No Parking” warning. Cary slid into the driver’s seat. “What’s wrong?”

“I’ve lost control of my life,” I complained. It felt like that. The feeling faded away in an auditorium as I listened to a forum discussion of the photographic legacy of Teenie Harris and the relevance of oral histories. It started about 20 minutes late. I had infected the auditorium too. Or else we have bound ourselves to the clock. When the forum was over, I stood in back and front of a sculpture in the back courtyard of the Carnegie. The sculptor created a person hiding the face in crossed arms. What had the sculptor been trying to say? Didn’t matter. I was looking at it now. Was it despair? No. Meditation? Maybe. Amused? Yes. That poor hard person had a bad day and now realized the absurdity of that feeling. No one can control time. No one can control the rain. Well, not us humans.

I set off on a course to the apartment ignoring passing buses and sloshing through water puddles with only my head and shoulders protected by an umbrella. When I got into the apartment, Caleb rushed into my room asking if I had seen the dinosaur. Control your perspective.

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