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Eye Contact and Conversation


I don’t like driving into the city.  I have lived in Georgia since 2003 and have driven myself into the city only a handful of times. We don’t go to Atlanta just to visit Atlanta. We drive to Atlanta to get to a destination or an experience. For me, it is too crowded, it is too intimidating, and it is too confusing. Yesterday, however, I had to take myself to the city to get my passport renewed. I had an appointment at the passport authority and was hoping I would be able to get it back in a day.

The traffic going up was not terrible and I reached the city without difficulty.  Finding parking was the first obstacle. I drove past my building and nearly turned the wrong way onto a one-way street because a woman walking down the street caught my eye.  She had vibrant blue hair and intense red lipstick on Jolie lips. She was going someplace, and I mean going with purpose.  I turned down my one-way street, going the right way, and found the entrance to a parking garage.  The stars had aligned for me and the stress worrying about my trip to Atlanta began to ebb.

I parked, dropped a pin on my map so I wouldn’t lose my car, and walked back down the street to the passport authority. I glanced around, remembering the blue haired woman, but she was long gone. The meeting at the authority took less than half an hour and it was maybe the easiest government agency experience I have ever had. It was a hundred times less of a hassle than getting my driver’s license or getting taxes for my tags taken care of. Everybody was pleasant, the line moved, it was efficient. I began to think that if the government could take a page out the Atlanta Passport Authority’s rules of operation maybe they could get on track.

I had four hours to kill while I waited so I took a bold step and drove through the city to Ponce City Market. It is this eclectic, artsy marketplace with local venders and dining done street style -- think food trucks but not. The third floor is an amusement park.  I strolled. I had no destination; it was just a place I could be for a couple of hours.  We’ve been before so it wasn’t completely new to me.  One of my favorite shops in the market is Sugarboo & Co, a dealer in whimsy.  The first thing that caught my eye was a small collection of compasses. I don’t know why, but love compasses. Maybe it is because I have zero sense of direction and often try to go the wrong way down one-way streets, Maybe it’s because they seem like something from a lost era when our ancestors set out into the world to truly discover some place nobody they knew had ever been. Maybe it’s because there is a small part of me that has always had wanderlust even in this era of my life when I am mostly a hermit. For whatever reason, I always drawn to them.

I had moved on to the assortment of Gathered Thoughts when the shopkeeper for the day strolled over to speak to the few of us who had just ambled in. “If you need anything, I’m Grace.” I turned to glance up, to acknowledge her words and we made eye contact. I knew her.  We had never met. It was vibrant blue hair. It was the bold Jolie lips.

“I saw you this morning.” I said, and that was all it took. It felt as if we were meant to meet. It was the strangest thing. I wonder if I hadn’t seen her earlier in the day, rushing to get to work on time, if I would have done more than just nod and then return to the collection of Gathered Thoughts. I don’t remember how the varied bits of our conversation went but there moments as I strolled through the shop when we spoke that it was as if we had known each other for years, or as if we had some shared experience that made us understand each other. At one point, she asked if she could read my cards, to which, of course, I said “Sure.”

The card that she pulled out for the deck to signify me was The Hermit. That seems a little fortuitous in itself. The reading mentioned a period of chaos and difficulty that I was just passing through, a journey in the future, and love through it all.

Interesting.

This last year has definitely been a period of chaos and difficulty. As I approach the anniversary of the day my mom passed, it is weighing in my heart like a lead weight. How have I made it through almost a year without a single phone conversation with her? We have been busy with family activities and they time has flowed past us in a torrent, month over month in the blink of an eye.

There are journeys and adventures on the horizon, hence my trip to the passport agency.

Change is brewing in all of our lives yet we are solid and strong in our family. Our son is engaged and looking at building his future with a woman who makes him feel secure and confident. Our girls are thinking about the world and their place within it with open eyes. My oldest daughter will get her driver’s permit this year. Next year they both of my girls will be in high school and then the torrent of time will flow past us, we will blink, and they will have moved on to college and everything that comes next. Then it will be me and my good man, back where we started from, just the two of us, both with a little bit of gypsy-foot, looking forward to whatever the future brings.

It was an amazing day. I returned to get my passport. They were efficient and it was ready when they promised. I drove home in the rain and cars in front of me kept moving forward as if, for one day, the stars had aligned, and they whole universe was moving on the path with me. I stopped writing blog posts about my personal life after my mom died, because I think, in some ways, they blog was always for her.  But I had to share this story, if for no other reason than to make sure I don’t forget this day. I am grateful today for people who are willing to make eye contact sometimes and the connections that come from chance encounters.

2 Comments


Nice story. And it was encouraging to hear that same-day passport service is possible in Atlanta!

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You were meant to meet that lady and start writing again. Loved your story! Miss you guys!

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