One of the good things about getting older, I said to my friend the other day, is that you’ve been around the block so many times you become complacent about things that used to freak you out. I was privy to this insight just this week, when I drove into Boston to attend a friend’s commencement. I don’t much like driving, especially in traffic and besides, Boston is two hours away.
I had my trusty GPS—let’s call her “Maybelle”—an emergency snack of cashews and one Cadbury Crème Egg, a leftover gift from two days before. Richie was on his way to New Jersey, so he wouldn’t be able to rescue me if anything happened. (But I tried not to think about that.) The drive in was fine except that I was late for the commencement because there was NOWHERE to park and when I finally got to the (outdoor) venue, it was raining with a stiff wind coming in from the harbor. No matter. The commencement was invigorating and teary, just like it was last year, when I graduated. This is no staid commencement, by the way. When the graduates’ names are announced, a huge cheer goes up from family and friends. And so it went for three hours. Then it was time to go home. It was 5:00 pm. On a Friday. In downtown Boston.
I set Maybelle for “Home” and inched along traffic-clogged streets. She instructed me to turn onto 93 North which immediately descended into a tunnel. This was the time when I knew I was mellowing out. Because it used to be that being in a tunnel would have me claustrophobically gasping for air and here I was—not only in a tunnel, but boxed in by unmoving traffic.
I calmly munched my cashews and then decided that since we weren’t moving at all, it would be a good time to attempt to unwrap the Cadbury crème egg. As I was savoring the crème egg, I thought maybe if we were stuck in here for much longer, I could start selling cashews to my fellow traffic-jammers. Do you see? Not a hint of panic from me. We started moving very slowly and that’s when Maybelle, not me, started freaking out. Instead of telling me to take Exit 28, which she had done before the tunnel, she now told me to “turn left onto State Street.”
“There is no State Street, honey,” I told her, licking the last of the crème off my fingers, “we’re in a tunnel.”
But Maybelle would have none of it. “Take a left onto State Street!” she insisted. Then two seconds later, “Take a left onto State Street!” She was starting to get to me. “We’re in a tunnel, lady, I can’t take a left!” I yelled at her.
Great, I thought, as I maneuvered the car across three lanes of underground rush hour traffic to get off at exit 28—Maybelle’s pre-panic instruction. Because who knew now, if Maybelle wasn’t having a nervous breakdown? Maybe, I thought, I’ll be driving around Boston for the rest of the night, trying to find my way home.
But even then, lost in Boston rush hour traffic with a traumatized GPS, I was calm. It was an odd feeling. I just knew somehow I would get myself out and home.
So that’s what you get when you get older—peace of mind.
And I’ll take it.