What a sh*t week.
Tough to write about laughter. Even typing the word on the page seems tone deaf. In fact, when I was running my ideas for the blog at our Tuesday meeting the responses ranged from,
“Are you sure?”
to “Maybe you could try to find something a little more uplifting?”
I drew a blank. Then they asked about our gig in Virginia for Centra Heart Institute. A smile came to my face thinking about me and comedian Lauren Pritchard straddling our bags in the back of a police car in Lynchburg. Detective John behind the wheel in plainclothes and our travel savior Darleene, “with three e’s,” riding shotgun.
How we got there was 100% a function of Lauren and how she responds to challenging situations. I’ve traveled the U.S. with her and to Mexico and am always amazed by her gifts. Not only for making lemonade out of lemons, but juggling them first to make sure people laugh too.
Straining for something uplifting to talk about, I see I don’t have to look far.
Four therapists and three coaches later, I will admit I have some strengths. However, travel planning is not one of them. Consequently, when we landed in Lynchburg I hadn’t thought through how we were going to get to the hotel late at night. In my defense, I’ve lived in New York City and Los Angeles for the past 35 years. It never dawned on me that when we arrived in Lynchburg, population 79, 285, there wouldn’t be an Uber or a cab. When this turns out to be the reality, having no one to blame but myself, I lost my sense of humor completely.
Fortunately, I was in this position with Lauren, who never seems to lose hers. And it’s a unique funny bone. She finds laughter assuming the best in people! While my face was in my phone desperate for any kind of local transportation, Lauren was busy making friends.
While standing in line outside the door of our plane waiting for our bags a loud woman with a strong southern accent announces,
“I’ll tell you what, I am happy to be home!”
Meanwhile, no bags.
“You’re from here?” Lauren asks.
“Yessirree. Although I don’t think I’ve been on a plane that small before! Glad we made it!”
“Oh, I have,” Lauren says, “One time the plane was so small they asked me my weight!”
The woman’s eye widened, “No!”
“Yep,” Lauren says, “It was either gonna be me or the luggage at the front of the plane.”
The woman laughs, completely charmed. No bags yet, and worse, no taxis.
“My mom was from Virginia,” Lauren adds. I look up.
“Uber can’t find a driver.”
“Uber?" Darleene yells, "Oh no you’ll never get an Uber here at this hour. Or any hour really.” She laughs.
Ha ha ha, I think and look back down at my phone.
“That’s why I’m having my friend the cop pick me up!”
“Smart,” Lauren says, smiling.
Our bags fall off a conveyor belt and we head to the exit. Lauren and Darleene keep chatting about life in Virginia. I sprint to Enterprise. “No cars left,” the clerk says turning off the lights.
I go back to Lauren, who is now on her phone too. There's a white van in front of us, but no more Darleene. Until she comes out from behind the car and grabs Lauren’s bag.
“Let’s go!” she says, “My friend John’s gonna drive you. Says it’s no problem.”
“Oh, I don’t think…” Lauren says.
“That sounds great!” I blurt. “Thank you so much!” I'm humbled by her generosity and grateful.
“Southern hospitality!” Darleen says. John appears and takes my bag.
“Let me get that for you.” He opens the backseat car door revealing two car seats strapped to them.
"Oh, you don't need to do that," I say, so happy for the ride I would have squeezed my 60 year old tush in one of them.
“It’s easy,” he says, and unhooks them like a magician.
He throws the seats in the trunk and Lauren and I hop in. She hits record on her voice memo.
Generous and kind, yes, but she also sent a WAZE report to her husband and made sure there was a record of the ride.
“People go missing Dani,” she tells me later. “Plus, I LOVED their accents and I knew my mother would too!
So true about the accents. The whole experience had me thinking about Tennessee Williams and relying on the kindness of strangers. Who knew that was a real thing?
Glad to be reminded that even in crisis when laughter and joy feel out of reach we can take small actions to connect with each other. Smile at a stranger, offer to help someone, or pull a “Lauren,” and ask someone how their day is going. Then really listen to their answer. You may not end up in the back of a cop car but where ever you are you might just find some hope.