On New Year's Eve, my daughter and I ate lunch at the Gryphon, a cozy pub on Main Street and St. Paul in Burlington, VT. Gabrielle ordered grilled cheese and tomato soup and I had a fried green tomato BLT with a side salad, and a sumptuous Bloody Mary, spiked with horseradish and graced with white asparagus and grilled shrimp.
Afterwards, we called for an Uber and emerged into the fading daylight as a cold breeze blustered up from Lake Champlain. Five minutes later, our driver, Gary, sped past and I phoned to tell him he'd missed us. He blasted back with accusations about my incompetence using an Uber app. He'd work his way back.
I've always responded slowly to anger. Gary had been obnoxious and I could have slammed him, but my response didn't extend beyond secret plans to give him only one or two stars. He pulled his dusty Nissan up to the curb, about my age, sitting low in the front seat, a round face, gray hair leaking from beneath a black baseball cap.
I thanked Gary for returning as we drove up Main Street. We moved slowly as crowds roamed about for First Night celebrations. He apologized for losing his cool and asked if I'd gotten the latest Uber app, which has better location finders. He was a native Vermonter, attending high school and college here. He wasn't much of a skier and we agreed the risk of injury wasn't worth it. He'd worked in digital technology, first in Vermont, then in San Francisco for fifteen years before HP bought his company out and he returned home.
Our holiday didn't go as planned. We had one lovely dinner with friends and a quiet afternoon sipping coffee at Uncommon Grounds on Church Street. I spent more time in the Fletcher Allen Emergency Department than in restaurants, and only some family members made the annual pilgrimage to Lemeac in Montreal. One of us developed profound fatigue and had atypical lymphocytes on a blood smear. Another will return home today, minus a vestigial body part. But recovery will come and we're lucky to have excellent insurance, unlike many of the locals.
I reflected on our fortune as we pulled into the hotel, thankful I’d restrained myself. With injustice seeming ascendant as we enter the new year, there is much to be said. But sometimes it is better to hold our tongues. Our Uber drive reminded me that there is usually a story behind nasty words, and a chance for friendship. I wished Gary a Happy New Year as he drove away.
May your 2017 overflow with peace, reconciliation, and five star Uber rides.
Happy New Year,