I've worked at my job over four years. I don't drive, so I depend on someone else to get me to work. A neighbor right across the highway, so close I can see her house from my front porch, was my first ride to work; I set the price at $5 a day, and it is well worth that. We had lots of laughs, and enjoyed one another's company, often making side trips to Wal Mart or the grocery store on the way home. Then her daughter started working at the same place, on second shift. So the daughter brought her son to work with her and handed him off to Grandma, and it was three of us. The trouble is, this child never really cared for me. He'd sit in the car seat behind me and kick at my back; he tossed his chewing gum in my hair. If his grandma and I were trying to visit, he'd yell, "Shut up!" He wanted to go to McDonald's or Wal Mart (for a toy) every night, and showed extreme displeasure if we didn't. Plus, we found ourselves waiting in the parking lot for 20 to 30 minutes after work for our little charge to arrive. Finally I got my nerve up and started riding with someone else, a sweet, quiet lady named Pam who always drove straight home. The trouble with her was that she missed a lot of work, and I'm paranoid about that. I have perfect attendence for all four years I've been at the distribution center. I'd have to scrape and scrounge another way to get to work, and ended up riding with Tracy, an assistant supervisor at work, more that with Pam. One day Tracy said, "You know, you may as well just ride with me all the time."
You'd have to have been a mouse in the car to know how much fun it's been riding with Tracy, in spite of the fact that she's had a year from Hell: she's lost her dad, her mother-in-law, and her favorite little dog in the past months. And now one of her best friends from work is dying of cancer. Even so, I've had more laughs with this lady than anyone has a right to. She graduated with my son, and we often reminisce about rock music from the 80's. Sometimes we stop by Sonic and she gets Cheddar peppers, and I'm her ranch-dip holder. I hold the dip so she can drive and dip. And we've ridden in everything from a '67 Mustang to a Dodge pickup (yeah, it's got a hemi) and everything in between. Her husband recently bought a motorcycle, and I wouldn't have been surprised if Tracy had shown up on that and handed me a helmet.
She recently scheduled a weekly appointment on Thursday nights after work, and as I tried to decide who I'd ride with on those nights, it only made sense to ask my neighbor, Judy, the one I first started with. Her grandson is now in school, and her daughter has a different, daytime job.
Cliff and I discussed this (he works with the same neighbor's son, and rides to work with him). We both agreed that she's the sensible one for me to ride with. "But," I said, "If I'm going to swallow my pride and ask to ride with her, it seems to me I should just start riding with her all the time." Cliff agreed.
This lady had been somewhat offended when I stopped riding with her a couple of years ago, and it was hard for me to make the call. I've gone to dentists before without as much heart-pounding fear as I had calling Judy. After trying in vain yesterday, I made the connection today. So I'm back with her.
But it was even harder to tell Tracy I was switching, because she has become like one of my own kids. She has been so good to me, and for me. I'll see her at work, but we won't trade our little secrets like we did in the car on our trek back and forth. She's the one who's responsible for me getting Mandy. She's a fountain of useless information. She knows every single citizen of my town AND most adjoining towns, and who they've had affairs with, and what house each of them lived in twenty years ago.
Tracy, I hope you're reading this, because I love you. You are a gift to me and to the world, and the best ride to work I ever had. God bless you.