Life in Progress, Merge Left

Post written by Monica Gaylor.

“Ok.  This is a merge.  You’ll need to speed up to match the oncoming traffic.” ~ Monica Gaylor

“Be like the bird who, pausing in her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing she hath wings.” ~ Victor Hugo

A visit with a friend the other day got me thinking about the past and reminiscing to myself over fun / foolish times.  Seemingly unrelated experiences congealed and then the idea took hold.  Should we ever yield to life?  Or, should we take the bull by the horns and merge with it instead?

Shortly after my mother died, my cousin came to live with us.  Although I was completely destroyed at the time, I put on a brave face and got on with life.  Or tried to, anyway.  It took my mind off of things to have someone, my age, around to talk to and commiserate with about how hard it was trying to just get by.

We were recently at a lunch with some older relatives who would say things like.  “Remember the time when we had to drive to Phoenix and I kept stalling the car,” or some such crazy thing.  Of course, that was way back when Phoenix wasn’t the mass conglomeration of many cities that it is today.  My cousin commented that we didn’t have any stories like that.  But, then we remembered that we did.

I haven’t lived in Phoenix for a very long time (decades) and part of the reason I left was the ridiculous amount of traffic, traffic jams, unbreathable air, and commute times.  But, before I left to travel the world, there was this sad little time with my cousin.  She was a mess.  I was a mess.  My father was a mess and just wanted to get married again – I think to anybody that would have him.  It was a depressing time for me, but it was infused with a few moments of hilarity, the kind that only comes with family.

I was giving my cousin a guided tour around my side of town, Phoenix, because she came from the Mesa / Gilbert area.  I was showing her a short cut through the mountains for her new commute to work.  It cut off several minutes of commute time and bypassed a high traffic area that was sure to slow you down.  As we came out of the residential area and we were to begin the joining of serious traffic, I gave her my best advice and instruction on the matter in a very calm voice.  “Ok.  This is a merge (sign).  You’ll need to speed up to match the oncoming traffic.”  And she did it, expertly, in her little old red Suzuki Samurai with the tattered soft-top.  We both breathed a sigh of relief – merging can be stressful when you are young.

So a week or two later, we are in a different section of town and I am navigating again and, of course, it is rush hour.  We are getting ready to go on the freeway so we are ascending an entrance ramp.  I use the same calm voice I always use.  “Ok.  This is a yield (sign).”  And I leave it at that because I think she knows what she is doing and I don’t want to be a back seat driver.  My cousin speeds up and blows right past the stop line.  I calmly say, “This is a yield,” as massive amounts of cars going at very high velocities start whooshing by in my peripheral vision.  She doesn’t respond.  I know in an instant that she thinks it is a merge and I begin to panic.  I reach out frantically for things to hold onto in the tattered soft-top vehicle.  I am certain I will meet the maker today, as I am only protected by a piece of ragged canvas, and I start chanting / screaming, “This is a yield, this is a yield…”

My cousin seems unaffected by my panic.  She doesn’t get it.  She swoops into oncoming traffic and merges with horns honking and 3 inches, front and back, to spare.  I am having a panic attack and breathing hard at this point and my cousin says something like, “They didn’t give me much space to merge.”

I have no idea what I did at that point.  I probably screamed at her.  Of course, when you’re young, shaves with death don’t seem all that big a deal and the terror fades quickly from memory and it seems much funnier later on (or even a few minutes later – as in our case).

I recently went to visit a friend of mine who just had a baby.  One day she left work at the normal time and she never came back.  These things are to be expected when you are pregnant, and I wasn’t surprised.  I was a little taken aback as she recounted the story of how she went into labor.

In the middle of the night, she felt a little trickle.  She wasn’t sure what to make of it so she let it be.  A little while later, the same thing, she felt more trickling.  It turns out that when water breaks, it doesn’t necessarily gush.  Sometimes the water bag just ruptures a little.  I remember other pregnant women telling me something similar– that they weren’t sure if it was their water breaking or not.  Never actually having had a baby, I had always wondered about this phenomenon, as TV and the movies make it seem so different.

After a few episodes of trickling, she calls the doctor and they say she needs to go to the hospital now.  She said at this point she is not having any bad contractions to speak of.  She is not due for several weeks and her boyfriend is back east making arrangements for their impending move there after the baby is born.  She drives herself (yes, drives herself) to Starbucks because she has no internet at her packed-up apartment.  She must email our boss to make arrangements for her classes.

At this point in the story I am thinking I would have just called and left a message.  But then, she goes on to say that she ordered a smoothie and a bagel and sat there and ate it while contacting all the various people who needed to be contacted.  Now, I am a little freaked out and must ask for clarification because I am envisioning a woman with contractions who has such a coffee addiction that on the way to giving birth she must stop and get a Starbucks.  But, she calmly explains to me that there is plenty of time and she is not really having contractions (???) but she is in labor (ish?).

Well, now it’s clear as mud.  Thank you Hollywood.  I would have been in a panic.  Or, maybe not.  I did, earlier in the school year, drive myself, while hemorrhaging from broken stitches, to the other side of town to my doctor’s office.  My doctor then told me that I needed to go to the hospital.  Thankfully, a nurse drove me there and the doctor met us (me) in surgery.  In the end, it turned out fine.

I guess, in the moment, you do what you do.  I think that sometimes life just calls for merging.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt