October 17, 2014

I’ve always wanted to travel for work. It sounds so glamorous– gliding through airports in a stylish coat, trying new restaurants on the company dime, running in cities across America. I believe that it isn’t usually this way but I choose to indulge in the fantasy. I have traveled by plane exactly once for work: the time I flew to Spokane and was rescued by a knight in shinning armor.

My teammate and I went to Spokane from Seattle for the Washington State Science Teachers Conference. Very much aware that Spokane is just 18 miles from the Idaho border, I had delicately inquired of my teammate beforehand if she might be up for running a 5K in Idaho. She agreed. It was a go! Finally, travelling for work that was shaping up to be anything but glamorous would get me another state. Tiny stars were aligning.

After landing, securing a rental car and changing into running gear at the hotel, we were back on I90, ready for adventure and my 22rd state. It was a quiet, gray day out on the freeway as we bounced along chatting about this and that. Suddenly I felt a jolt, like I’d run over something. I asked my teammate: “Did you feel that? Did we hit something? Can you look behind?”

“No. Nothing.” She was calm.

And things felt normal again. Relief. But just after relief came the jolt and I knew things were not normal. She felt the same and asked me to pull over. The road was sparse so we scooted off to the side without any trouble. We got out of the car and confirmed that it was a flat. It was then that this strange little stream of thoughts floated by: “We’re safe, good. I really hope we can still get the run in. If we can, what a story!”

Moments later a police car pulled over. The officer ducked his head in and asked if we were alright. My teammate replied, “Hello, officer. Yes, we’re fine. We had a flat.” Her use of “officer,” for some reason, made me feel like we were in an 80s comedy and she was Shelly Long or Terri Garr or another actress playing a quirky charmer. The officer, taken with us, out of kindness, or in an effort to get us off the side of I90 (I vote for the latter) called a tow truck to bring us a donut to get us to the tire store.

Waiting outside at the tire store, I quietly shivered in my running clothes, trying to soak up this story but truly eager to get the run in. My teammate however was engaging in conversation with another customer. I caught snippets:

She: “We got a flat…”

He: “I was in the newspaper business too…”

And so on while I munched on free, yellow, salty popcorn. I was eager for the story to turn to one of running and yet this was the story.

Did we ever run in Idaho? Yes, in Post Falls, Idaho we looped Qemlin Park for 3.1 miles. It was nondescript, alternating running along the Spokane “?River and connected cul de sacs. It was one of the most boring runs I’ve ever done and yet still a story because of up until this point one unmentioned detail: the officer’s last name was Knight. We were rescued by a knight in shining armor who saved us from sitting on I90. His name saved the story. Officer Knight helped us get the tire fixed and gave me the opportunity to eat that disgusting but memorable popcorn. He also gave my teammate the opportunity to talk to another newspaper person who, as she told me the other day, was also a veteran. The knight had created a story for her too. But most importantly he revealed that one can go off on an adventure, run into trouble and be saved. Not always, but sometimes kindness does pull over. If we tune in–and choose not to scarf on disgusting popcorn–we can meet kind people. We seek the story. What if we sought connection?


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