Usually David takes Kenneth (our beloved little Prius-C) in for tune-ups, but on December 19th I made the drive to Peabody. Perhaps hearts open a little wider during the year’s darkest days. Even before I opened the car door I saw a light in the eyes of the man at the intake desk.
“If you can figure out how to pair my new cell phone to the car’s bluetooth, it will be a Christmas miracle,” I joked, handing over my keys.
“I’ll bet we can handle that,” he said.
Within minutes of handing over my keys and cell phone, I felt like I’d known this man my whole life long.
The tag on his jacket read Ludlow Berkeley. “That’s quite a name,” I said.
“Ludlow Berkeley the fourth,” he told me. When his mother was on her way into the delivery room, his grandfather had threatened to disinherit her if she didn’t add another Ludlow to the family line.
Ludlow shook his head with a chagrined smile. “It was a different time. We gave it to our son as a middle name. He can choose if he ever wants to use it.”
We spoke of second marriages and Native American wisdom. We’ve both lived beside the beaches of Beverly and in quaint farm towns (he’s in Newbury, next door to Rowley). We wondered together whether car deer whistles really work or if they just engender peace of mind (either way, I’m grateful for them).
I’m not kidding – all of this took no more than 10 minutes. I’m not sure I believe in past lives, but if I did, I’d tell you that Ludlow and I were good friends some lifetime ago. Call it that, call it a soul connection . . . wrap it up in whatever words you like.
While Kenneth the car went in for his tire rotation, I planted myself in the showroom, next to windows that faced the rising sun.
“Would you close that door please?” the receptionist said to someone walking in. I hardly noticed the first time, but the third time she spoke the words I turned to the bright-eyed woman behind the desk.
“Is the door broken?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said. The door will probably always be broken, prone to sticking in the open position. They’ve looked into solutions, but it seems to be a flaw in the design; other dealerships have the same problem.
So all winter long, over and over, between a thousand other quotidian tasks, Linda asks customers and employees to close the door. She laughs it off. There are worse problems than a door being stuck in the open position. “I love what I do,” she tells me. “I make people feel welcome.”
I haven’t written two sentences in my journal before two salespeople pass, joking with each other about singing on the job. I pipe up to say that I approve.
“You’re a music teacher?” Blake Rickerson sits down to talk. He speaks of music with a child’s wonder. “Drums are my favorite,” he tells me, but he’d love to learn the electric guitar, too. He loves Muddy Waters and Neil Young; he adores Beethoven. “Sometimes I don’t want any words, sometimes I only want music.”
Blake is a breathtaking human being: eloquent, energetic, earthy. “If you ask me what separates me from other people, it’s being me.” This is something any three-year-old could tell you, but coming from a 50-year-old man (can you believe that?!) it bears nuance and depth.
“People tell me I’m too much of a thinker, that I’m a know-it-all, but I do think and I do know. I ask my friends: do you know or are you just repeating what you heard from someone else? You need spiritual freedom to enjoy what defines you. I’m like a tiger,” he says with a grin. “I know how to move to my own beat.”
I scribble down his words like a student in a lecture hall.
When Ludlow comes to tell me the car is done, I hate to leave. Before I go, I tell Blake, “You’re a very good-looking man.” This is one of my goals for the new year, and for the rest of my life: to praise beauty wherever I see it. (Hint: you can see it anywhere, provided you’re paying attention.)
Blake chuckles and shrugs. “I know.”
I pull away from the dealership and the day is still only beginning. Was I here an hour or a lifetime? You don’t expect divine encounters when you show up at 8:25 on a Saturday morning for a tire rotation, but divine encounters don’t happen according to any calendar. If there’s anything I’m learning, it’s to pay less attention to my calendar.