Saturday, September 20, 2008

Crazy Day -- Choose the Silver Lining!

I had one of the craziest days EVER this past Wednesday! I still have to smile as I think back to the "quirks" that popped up in my day. :)

David & I were to attend the Annual Conference of The Missionary Church International in Columbia, SC. This is the organization that covers our ministry -- -- and I was excited about going to the conference for the first time. The conference started Wednesday at 4 pm and lasted until late Friday night. I took Thursday & Friday off from work, and left a little early on Wednesday so I could reach the conference that evening. I'd be a little bit late, I reasoned, but I didnt think I'd miss much other than registration. Dinner was supposed to be served around 5, then the opening session at 7.

I organized everything so I could drive straight to Columbia from school. I just completed the paperwork for getting my teachers licensure in SC; the last hurdle for that was for me to be fingerprinted. I decided to "kill two birds with one stone" and made an appointment in Columbia to be fingerprinted -- as suggested in the application from the Dept. of Education. I was supposed to be at the office at 5:15. I left school around 2 pm, with my handy-dandy computer generated map & directions in hand. One set led me from school to the fingerprinting place, then another set that would direct me from the fingerprinting place to The Church where TMCI's conference was held.

Throwing my handbag in the car, I felt free from school for a few days! I fastened the seatbelt and headed out the gate of the school. The first few directions were a little bit skewed -- leading me around Hamlet & Rockingham to eventually end up on US 1 South. The school's on US 1 *North* -- so I knew how to "get out of Dodge" an easier way than directed. So I took off, headed for Columbia straight down US 1.

The road through the Carolinas was fairly straight and easy. There really werent very many towns along the way, mostly pine trees and farms. It was a pleasant drive. I put one of my favorite cd's in the player -- "Jerusalem Alive" by Paul Wilbur -- and sang & worshipped as I zipped down the highway, cradled between a couple of trucks.

Man, I made GREAT time! I was in Columbia before I knew it! Looking at the clock, I realized I *might* just make it to the fingerprinting office early, and if I could get that taken care of earlier than my appointment, perhaps I wouldn't have to be late for the conference after all!

I picked up the directions and began looking for the streets I needed to use to get to the fingerprinting office. I-20 West, then right on Bull, right on Richland, then right on Thurmond Mall. Simple enough, huh? Ahh there was Bull street....and there was Richland! Now to find Thurmond Mall. I drove about 4 blocks, noting the streets as I crossed them. According to my directions, Thurmond Mall wasnt but about a tenth of a mile from where I turned onto Richland. But NONE of these streets had that name.

Then as I approached the next intersection, I noticed a patrol car parked across the intersection -- and upon closer look I realized it wasnt an intersection at all. The street dead-ended at the Governor's Mansion. No "Thurmond Mall" street to be found.

OK no big deal, I thought, I'll just as the policeman in that patrol car.
WRONG. Car was empty. Some kinda decoy, huh? Soooo.... I studied that map (which obviously must have been drawn up about 100 years ago, since the Governor's Mansion was NOT on it anywhere) and realized I might need a little more assistance. I drove up and down the streets, looking hard for "Thurmond Mall" street.

Time was slipping by. I was grateful that I'd gotten into town early; it kept me from getting stressed out.

After burning time & gasoline in a futile attempt to find the place on my own, I pulled into the parking lot of a restaurant. I figured that someone in there might be able to give me directions. The manager seemed to know exactly where I was supposed to go, and wrote down some street names for me. I thanked him & headed back out to find this place. His directions were simple and complete, and brought me right in front of the Strom Thurmond Federal Office Building.

Ok, I thought, maybe this is the place. I parked the car, and noticed that it was about 4:50. I was still early, so all was well. I had to park way in the back, then walk to the opposite corner to find the door. As with all federal offices these days, I was met by a guard and instructed to drop my purse on a conveyor belt and step through a metal detector. I must have looked a bit frazzled; the guard asked me what my business was at the office. When I explained, he smiled, and said no, I wasnt in the right place. YET. He knew exactly where I was supposed to go. Picking up a notebook, he motioned me away from the metal detection gate to show me a map. He took a sheet of paper out of the notebook, and hastily sketched a map for me. I wasnt far from the place, he explained. Even with 5:00 traffic, I should be able to make my appointment. He smiled and wished me well as I left Strom's Building. What a nice guy -- It's not often you run into folks that helpful these days!

Just to be on the safe side, I thought I'd call the fingerprinting office and tell them I'd had difficulty finding the place but should be there shortly. I got no answer; it kicked into voicemail. I thought to myself, "This is NOT a good sign!" Little did I know....A little spark of frustration began to smolder.

I got into my car, and using my new map drove right straight to the office complex! It was 5:18 -- so I was just 3 minutes late! I found a parking spot very close to the front door, hopped out of the car. There were 4 doors that led into an air-lock; two more doors led into the lobby. I pulled the first airlock door -- it was locked. Well, after all -- it's after 5 pm, right? I tried the next door. Locked. The third one was locked also. I began to get really frustrated then. I gave the 4th door a yank -- and it opened! Next to get into the lobby!

The lobby door directly across from the airlock door was locked. Wouldnt you know. When I tried the only other door to the lobby, it also was locked. I was really aggravated now. I tried to call the office again -- still got voicemail. Then I noticed a small sign at the end of the airlock "For Fingerprinting" -- the sign instructed that if you came after 5 pm, to key in the office number on a keypad below the sign. So I followed those instructions. No one answered.

Just as I was about to let my frustration/aggravation develop into anger, a lady came out of the lobby -- I grabbed the door before it could close and I was at last in the building! YAAY for small victories!!!

The office was on the 3rd floor, so took an elevator. The doors opened to a lobby full of people. So many folks were waiting there were no more chairs. I wondered what that was all about, as I went down the hall to the fingerprinting office.

When I found the correct office, a sign on the door read, "Please knock before entering." I rapped my knuckles on the door 3 times. Nothing. Waited several seconds, and tried again. Still nothing. The third time I started to knock I heard a woman say, "Excuse me, are you here for fingerprinting?" When I answered yes, she said, "You'll need to come wait in the lobby please."

I joined the other 9 people in there, and then learned that the young lady running the fingerprinting service had locked her keys in the office around 4 pm. Everyone who'd had an appointment since 4 pm was now waiting in the lobby.

I watched folks. The young lady who ran the office was notably flustered. She was making phone call after phone call, trying to find someone else who had a key that could come let her in. I was astonished when she called the janitors, who told her they'd come in "at 10:00, like usual" and unlock the place. NO ONE seemed to have a key, or to care about the situation we were all in.

Other people waiting showed a variety of emotions. One woman with a handicapped daugher sat calmly and peacefully, just waiting. You could almost feel the peacefulness around her. A couple of others were not so peaceful. They complained, loudly. Talking among themselves, they made remarks about how "incompetent" the young woman was. This just added to her feelings of inadequacy -- and I thought their remarks were totally rude and uncalled for.
A few others were feeding off of their negative vibes, and I could see that the situation wasnt a pleasant one, especially for that young lady who was near tears, frantically trying to find someone to help her.

It was at that point that I realized I had a choice. I could make a difference in how I handled the whole situation. And I possibly could make a difference in how others were handling it as well.

So when she finished telling me that she'd locked the key in the closet, I smiled. I said, "Who HASNT ever locked themselves out of some place?" Then I shared that I always kept a spare key at my Grandma's house because I was prone to walking out the door without my key.
The lady with the handicapped child looked at me and grinned, then shared about a time she'd locked the carkeys inside the car. Another person told his story -- and in no time, MOST of us were waiting patiently, telling funny stories. You could see the young lady behind the desk beginning to relax a bit, and even smile.

The two that were rudely impatient asked if they could just be rescheduled for another day. The young woman gave them new appointments and they left in a huff, leaving the rest of us to wait until somehow the door would be unlocked. Once the elevator doors closed behind them, the whole atmosphere of the waiting room changed. More funny stories were exchanged, and we made the waiting time fun and relaxing instead of stressed out and frustrating.

The girl called the custodian once more and got the same answer, that he'd be there at 10 pm. One of the others waiting commented that he'd call that guy's supervisor and complain. The young woman took that cue, and did just that. The supervisor must have explained to the custodian that he needed to change his tune because after another half-hour, he showed up and unlocked the door.

It took maybe 5 minutes to be fingerprinted (it was done electronically, really cool!) and within another half hour I'm sure she got everyone through and back on schedule.

Was I late to the opening of the conference? Yes. I ended up grabbing a burger at McDonald's (cant remember the last time I even WENT to a McD's before that) instead of having the big dinner, but that was no big deal. I missed a few minutes of one of the first sessions, but that didnt make the world end.

The way I look at it, I had a choice. I could get all aggravated -- I'd already been frustrated over the incompetence of the internet-produced map, so it would have been a short hop into anger. Or I could just be patient and realize we're all human.

It was a simple choice, really. Did I have any control over how fast that door would be unlocked? Nope. I would have had to wait the same length of time whether I was steaming mad or smiling and sharing funny stories.
I just decided that I'd rather be happy than angry.

Happiness IS a choice. Every day we're all faced with choices to get aggravated or be patient. We're thrown situations that can kink up our plans, re-arrange our priorities, cause us problems. How we face those choices make a huge difference in how we perceive life.

And it can make a big difference for other people, as well. The young lady thanked me and the calm woman with the handicapped child as we left; she said we made her feel like she was just a "human" -- and not quite so dumb as some other folks were making her feel. She said the world needed more people like the two of us.

And THAT remark made me smile. What a silver lining for me -- to help turn someone's bad day into a better one!

So my advice to you here is....
Choose happiness, as often as you can! And oh yes -- forget!!!Use Google maps instead!
Anita <><

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