Monday, March 28, 2011

Two Dollar Toll

It was a horrid day of failures and defeats; a week long book tour in southwest Florida turned to three weeks and I had one more large event. Friday night's downtown Fort Myers gathering with 5,000 people expected could allow me to sell the rest of my books instead of mailing them home. At four thirty I made my way to the conference center, my rental car packed with supplies and props.

I was supposed to arrive for setup by four.

Earlier that day, my phone died--permanently, I waited at an appointment and the people did not show up, and I had to pack boxes of books, tables, and equipment into my rental car by myself. Its large trunk accommodated everything and whatever else I had fit in the back seat. An older, retired, undercover cop car; a Crown Victoria ... heck, it was the cheapest rental I could find, and it's familiar body style paved the way on most roads. No one wanted to get pulled over.

But after most of the day was wasted, I made my way to downtown Fort Myers in my retired cop car, sweaty clothes damp from the humidity, hair flopped into a bun, and no make-up on. I wanted to make it work.

I ignored the GPS talking above a loud air conditioner fan screaming out cool air as I daydreamed about actually having someone to help. Would be nice--not being alone all the time...

As I complained in my head, I missed the turn off for down town and instead headed up the bridge ramp to cross the Caloosahatchee River. The Midpoint Memorial Bridge is a toll bridge that costs $2.00 each time you drive over it. It wasn't the $2.00 that ended it for me--it was the thick, rush hour traffic squashed into two lanes and the fact I made just one more mistake that day. I was now completely defeated. Maybe the Lord just doesn't want me to go. But I wanted to go. I wanted to make some money to offset the cost of staying in Florida two more weeks. Ugh.

The hot sun beat on my arm stinging my delicate skin. Years of transplant meds made me sensitive to heat and likely to get skin cancer. My boat of a car groaned under the stop and go progression. I leaned my head back on the seat momentarily and then jerked forward as I approached the toll booth.

A dark skinned Florida native, her beautifully sunned complexion rich with brown tones, smiled at me with an animated Cheshire cat grin. "You don't have to pay today. The gentleman in front of you paid your toll."

I perked up, sitting forward and looking at the back of the blue car that was in front of me. It was already far from the toll booth and disappeared as I looked back at the clerk. "Wow, that's amazing," I said in that quick moment we had to converse. The toll light turned green for GO and I made my way over the bridge.

I turned off the air conditioning, opened the windows, and let the ocean breeze and smell of salt water beyond the river drown deeply into my worn out senses. My face loosened as the tension left and I released my shoulders into the large creases of the front bench seat.

Two dollars ... a two dollar toll was not a toll but a gift from someone who God used to send me a message. It was okay and I was going to be okay.

I missed the event but returned to my room satisfied. A day of defeat and failure ended with assurance I wasn't beaten. And that man in the car ahead of me may not ever know how far that two dollars went--unless I see him in heaven. I hope I do.

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