Speaking of Detours…

When things don't go as planned...
When things don’t go as planned…

In her book God Never Blinks: 50 Life Lessons for Life’s Little Detours author Regina Brett writes about the her need to do things perfect at all times, and her resulting control-freak tendencies:

“…I couldn’t delegate any task, no matter how small. They all had to be done just right, and only I knew the best way to complete them. ….That’s how important I was.”

Oh, how that passage resonated with me. I felt seen, heard and humbled, particularly as I have been struggling recently to let go of some tasks on my Insurmountable To Do List.

And then this happened:

I had hired a jack-of-all trades type to help me with a long list of chores – dump runs, hardware trips to Home Depot, mail errands – all flawlessly executed.  Airport limo, too.  Now, my daughter had a cheerleading event in Niagara Falls. Would he drive us there?  Absolutely! I was relieved. One more responsibility I could cross off my list.

So when we started out on in his van on a sunny Friday morning, I had a lightness in my heart and a pile of work in my lap.  I paid no attention to the drive itself, just sat relaxed in the passenger seat alternately reviewing legal memos and chatting with the driver. After all, I had delegated this task, had I not? Why the heck should I worry about navigation?

When we exited the highway at an unfamiliar street a few hours later, it gave me pause, but I didn`t say anything. Perhaps he knew some shortcut. He had said he had a brother in the neighbourhood. When our route meandered first through a downtown area , with its myriad stoplights, and then into residential neighbourhoods, I became more concerned, but I still didn`t say anything.

Then the houses became fewer and the landscape more rural. My driver suddenly said “huh, we`re heading out of town again.” Panic seized me.

“Do you know where we are?” I asked, idiotically.

“I’ll stop and ask for directions,” he said, but didn’t, until we driven another fifteen minutes, passing houses and schools we’d seen at least once already.

Thankfully, the kids seemed oblivious, lost in books and IPODs.

“Oh, now I know what the problem is,” he said eventually. He didn’t elaborate and I didn’t ask. Later on he disclosed that he’d seen a bus go by with “St. Catherine’s Transit” across the front.

“Oh,” I said. Wrong city. And you didn’t pick up on that for 45 minutes? Seriously?

Call me crazy, but when you hire a person to drive you somewhere, is it not a reasonable to assume that said person would map out the route in advance? Am I reaching here? And our hotel directly overlooks Niagara Falls, a world-famous tourist attraction. It is not as though we were navigating to some hidden sports arena in Hicksville. There are massive signs all along the highway that practically escort you there. A penguin could find it no trouble at all.

Eventually we did arrive at our hotel, a full hour later than expected. This was after I had asked my daughter to MapQuest it on her phone, so I, at least, knew where we were..

Did he apologize? Uh, no.

“I’ll knock an hour off my time for that little foray into St. Catherines,” he offered.

“That’s fine,” I said. You bet your boots you will.

Don’t get me wrong. I didn`t get angry or upset. Perhaps mildly irritated. It was an excellent opportunity to practice patience and compassion for the foibles of others. And to kick myself, of course:

Why had I not checked the directions online and printed a map? Brought my own GPS? Set up the browser on my phone? If only I had, we would not now be in this position. I cannot trust anyone to be competent...

Regina’s words echoed in my head:

“…I couldn’t delegate any task, no matter how small. They all had to be done just right, and only I knew the best way to complete them. ….That’s how important I was.”

I still felt humbled, but in a different way. I am the mom. I look after everyone, even the people who are supposed to be looking after me. I know how to extend kindness, forgiveness and patience; I know that we are all fallible human beings just doing the best we can. Is there anything more important that? Honestly, I don’t think so.