Why did our companionship, in spite of events, continue as cheerfully as ever? Why didn’t our spirits sink? First, the Uber driver’s map app took him to the other side of Central Park from where we were actually waiting in the dark and the cold. Then, having arrived at last at our destination, we saw a sign in the window of our highly-recommended restaurant: TAKE OUT ONLY. Before we could begin to think of what to do next, six fierce fire engines arrived suddenly, closing the street, their spinning lights turning everything red around us. None of this dismayed us. Why not? Perhaps because we were simply delighted to be in each other’s company after many months apart. These distractions only increased our fellowship. Even now, I would be in such company again — whenever apps go wonky, recommendations fail, and the world is full of false alarms.
You may react differently to frustrations. Waiting for a ride that is late? Me, I usually get snippy and impatient when left spinning my wheels, especially if it is because some stupid app on a smart phone has messed up. Looking back, it still amazes me that we were not glum when a glitch delayed our Uber driver. My wife and I continued to enjoy the company of our god-daughter and her husband, our first time in their company with no other family around. We had them to ourselves. It was a chance to get to know them as a couple, see how they dealt with the unexpected.
The Uber driver was fantastic! Caribbean-born, he was a real character, opinionated in a cheerful way that invited us to share our opinions. Looking at the camera around my neck, he asked me to agree with him that the best camera in the world is the one you have, not the one you wished you had, the implied moral being to learn to be happy with the life you have.
After he dropped us off, we had to adjust our expectations again because the restaurant recommended to us was a tiny place with nowhere to sit — take out only. Where would we eat instead?
Before we could even begin to solve this new problem, a fire engine arrived, blocking traffic. One by one, five more bright red trucks arrived, closing down 2nd Avenue, making it hard to think. “My son loves fire engines,” said our god-daughter’s husband. “Actually, he loves anything with wheels.” There was no smoke, no squads of firefighters rushing into danger. Perhaps it was a false alarm or the fire was quelled by the time the responders got there. Before the fire engines drove off, I took photographs of them — with the best camera in the world.
It was my wife who noticed an unassuming restaurant nearby with seating. While she and I debated the menu posted outside, a fashionably-dressed woman came out, the kind of classy older woman you might expect to find on the Upper East Side. She had just finished her meal. She ate at A La Turka often. “Try the lentil soup,” she said. “The zucchini fritters are delicious, but make sure to order them well done so they are a bit crispy, not mushy.” After making other suggestions, she walked home and we went in. We had a wonderful meal, which only made our companions’ company even more enjoyable. The creamy lentil soup was the best in the world.
So even though things kept going wrong, it didn’t matter. The unexpected just made our visit to New York City more memorable. God willing, I would have faith always that mine is the best life in the world. Disappointments and frustrations would not matter. I’d look forward to meeting engaging strangers with friendly banter and good advice. I’d look forward to whatever God gave me. I’d look forward, wondering what’s next.
That is who I would be, not who I am. I get frustrated with myself that I am not the me I want to be. Then I think, God loves me as I am, the best me in the world. God loves us. Let me end this essay there!
(Photo of the New York City Fire Department units at E. 74th Street and 2nd Avenue in front of A La Turka restaurant. Photo and text copyright 2023 by Danny N. Schweers.)
Danny, it was great to read this reflection after seeing the picture in your photo prayer. Having been to New York City for a play in November, your reflection was even more meaningful.