Kindness of Strangers
My husband and I live ninety minutes from one of our two daughters. She and her husband live in the countryside in the Columbia Gorge. God's country, without a doubt.
The drive there was surprisingly congestion-free for a Saturday. Interstate-5 can be very busy, week or weekend, with cars and trucks traveling the corridor between Portland, OR and Seattle, WA. (I-5 will take one directly South into California or North to Canada.) We left the house and headed South on our drive. Intermittent rain kept window wipers busy on my Toyota Highlander.
I have always loved to drive but don't get around as often as in the past. It's a joke with my family because my SUV is a 2006 with 43,000 miles registered on it. We have never lived this far from our girls and I miss not seeing them as often. It was a spur of the moment decision to go, when I called my younger daughter to chat and learned she was heading out to sister's home within the hour.
The Columbia Gorge separates Oregon and Washington states with numerous bridges connecting them. Running East to West the mighty Columbia River spills into the Pacific Ocean.
The Gorge is known for its scenic beauty that attracts tourists, for its miles of hiking trails, misty waterfalls, vistas of Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier, small towns and inns perched on hillsides, world class wind surfing, salmon fishing, apple orchards, and riverboat cruises.
An hour later we were on the gorge highway heading East to Salmon Falls Road. The rain had washed everything clean. Tall firs and underbrush were lush and green everywhere I looked. A sense of gratitude washed over me as I felt transfixed by beauty of river and forests, happy that I had decided to make this drive today.
Bob broke the silence by acknowledging that he, too, was responding emotionally to the beauty surrounding us. I remarked how fortunate daughter Melodee and her husband were, that they enjoyed these views on a daily basis driving to and from their respective jobs.
I had my cell phone plugged in and charging during the drive. At one point, nearly to Melodee and Aaron's home, Bob thought he would call them and picked up the phone from the console. The device showed a message that charging was complete and to unplug the unit, which he did. He could not complete a call though and I said we were probably not in cell range.
I told Bob that I needed the code to the electronic gate and could not remember it. My mind was giving me an older code from a couple years ago that I knew was wrong. Oh, well, I had called from the gate before and would do it again.
I always chuckle to myself when we arrive at the gate. It sits at the top of a mountainous area that has been completely logged without a single home in sight. It's the oddest thing to see this bit of technology that looks completely out of place miles from town.
Because we have often driven out here with our other daughter driving her vehicle, remembering the code has not been a priority. It has always been nice to sit back and let her do the driving and input the code when we have arrived in the past. It's not so funny when you cannot remember the damn code and you realize your phone has become inoperable.
The phone came on and I could access my daughter's number but it would not complete the call. I was getting an error message that said the sim card was not registered.
We live in the country and have no cell coverage at our home. Our home phone is a land line and internet and TV services are supplied by two satellite dishes. My cell phone is only used in my car and is there primarily for emergencies.
Here we are, on the top of a hill with no other homes immediately nearby or in view and I am getting rattled. My family is gathered seven miles down this winding gravel road at the bottom of this mountain and I cannot reach them by cell phone.
My bladder is full and I know a solution is not going to be found to get us through the gate and to my daughter's home before I need to void. I step out of the car and relieve myself, praying to God that no other car comes into sight in the next moment. We are totally exposed with no privacy because everything has been logged.
I got back in the car and decided we needed to drive to the nearest house where someone is clearly at home and ask to use their phone to call my daughter.
I am praying again for help as I back-track on the gravel road. It is a 'thank you, God' moment when the first house, the large white one with tall wrought iron gates and lions on pillars with a long u-shaped driveway, comes into sight and the garage doors are open! Yet, not only are they open, the gentleman of the house is in the garage because I can see him from the road! Hallelujah!
I pull in and stop near the garage, roll down my window and ask if he can help me. He tells me his name is Mike, reaches out his hand to shake mine and asks my name. Good first impression! He invited me to come inside to use the phone. I met his wife in the kitchen and told her my situation.
She tells me that she not only knows the gate code, they know some of their neighbors on the other side of the gate. I recognized Andrew's name the moment she said it. I have never met him but know who he is and that he lives in the first home below the gate! Things are quickly looking up!
Since I am still rattled she offers to call Andrew and verify the gate code for me. I was literally having trouble remembering phone numbers at that moment and told her I would really appreciate that because I was having a senior moment and felt confused. She told me not to worry, she had those moments, too!
Bless her heart, she picked up the phone and called Andrew. "Thank you, God" once more, because he was home and answered. "Yes," he tells her, "that is the correct gate code."
I thanked them profusely and returned to the car. I told Bob that I am probably not going to forget the gate code, ever, and hope it is not changed again in the near future! I am going to write it down and put it in the glove box! Give me paper and pencil any day, thank you very much. Sometimes technology is not a good thing!
With that, I drove back over the gravel road, approached the black box with key pad, punched in the code and watched as that beautiful gate slowly opened for us!
But for the kindness of strangers, we would have been sitting at the gate hoping someone would drive in or out. With only a few homes built on the side of that mountain, on the other side of that gate, we could have been there a long time.
After arriving at Melodee and Aaron's home, I relayed our plight to the girls. Cassie took my cell phone and rebooted the sim card by popping it out and replacing it again. It worked just fine! It had worked fine the weekend before when I was out with Cassie, so I am guessing that a glitch was created when Bob unplugged the cord after it had charged fully. If he had turned it off first before removing the cord, I doubt a problem would have occurred. My best guess, anyway!
To sum up the day, we had a wonderful time with our family and enjoyed a delicious dinner. We curled up on couches and watched the movie, Philomena. (I recommend it if you have not seen it; a profoundly true story of adoptions made through a Catholic convent and orphanage in Ireland decades ago and the lives impacted by the decisions of others.)
There is always a lot of horse-play in our family, much silliness and laughter. We chatted well into the night and headed for home about 12:30AM. It's always an easy drive home at that time of night with little traffic to contend with. We arrived home at 2:00AM and headed straight to bed. It had not only been a good day, it had been a better one, thanks to the kindness of strangers.
Thank you for reading, and have a great day!