I had this feeling that something dramatic would happen in the process of meeting a lone Amish man I had never met before. Even with my good cousin Sara Nolt -also a writer- along for moral support, I couldn’t help worrying a little about the interview.
First, it was pouring rain and I was driving a car borrowed from Laura’s daughter Abigail. I was nervous about Lancaster County roads anyway, and with the water level up, it was all too possible that one of those varicose veins would burst and float me into one of the surrounding pastures. At least, Sara agreed to drive the rest of the way from her house.
Second, we were meeting our interview subject at a restaurant, and since he is unmarried it would be just him. Since we had never met before, this in itself might prove to be tricky. He had told us to meet him at 5:00 at a restaurant in Christiana, where it was seafood buffet night. He could have met later, but he had a 6:30 appointment, so our time would be limited.
“I mean, what are we going to do for a prayer before our meal?” I wondered out loud to my cousins Laura and Dawn as we drank coffee that morning.
“A silent prayer,” one of them said.
Third, I was far from home and routine. Marnell and the rest of the sound guys were using all the normal voice recorders for the REACH conference, so I would be working with a very important tool I wasn’t familiar with.
Fourth, my cousin and I can read each other’s minds so well that I knew if something funny happened, it would strike both of us funny, and I might not be able to recover myself if I knew she was laughing too.
Fifth, I am researching for a project that I may or may not complete because of its sensitive nature. I was nervous about the questions I needed to ask.
So, as the time approached to leave for the interview, I nervously put everything I could think of needing in a bag and said good-bye to Marnell. He was busy, but he took the time to show me how to use the voice recorder that I was not familiar with.
I secured my phone in Abigail’s car. She has this neat thing where you can fasten the phone onto a clip in the vents and use it easily as a GPS. Abigail is my cousin Laura’s oldest daughter. She was going shopping that same day with friends, who were kindly picking her up so I could use her car.
The GPS served me well, and I twisted my way to Sara’s house without floating away. So far so good. I collected my bag and my umbrella, a copy of Faces of Syria as a gift to the man I was planning to interview, and my questionable voice recorder and walked through the pouring rain to Sara’s front porch.
“I laughed just driving in,” I told her. “This is one of the strangest things I’ve ever done. I just have this feeling that some disaster is going to happen.”
Sara’s husband John, bless his heart, had skipped lunch that day so he could get home early enough to stay with the children while Sara went with me.
I took my things out to Sara’s car, rain falling onto me and my bags. As I piled my things into her back seat, Faces of Syria fell out of the car, and landed in the rain-soaked driveway.
“Oh no,” I groaned.
Bad start. I wiped it off, and climbed into the front seat.
With her at the helm, things went swimmingly, and we pulled up at the designated restaurant a few minutes early. We walked through the wet parking lot and settled ourselves in the lobby.
A little after 5:00, with still no sign of a lone Amish man, I went to the hostess.
“There isn’t a single man here who said he was meeting two women, is there?” I asked.
“No, I don’t think so,” she said with a smile. “I’ll check with the other hostess.”
I can’t remember exactly when it happened, but I reached for my phone, and it wasn’t there.
Oh. That handy-dandy clip in the vent in the car I borrowed from Abigail. That’s where my phone is.
“This is very bad,” I told Sara. “I left my phone in Abigail’s car. Of all things to forget when you’re having an interview with someone you never met! What if something came up and he tried to call me? Or what if he just chickened out and isn’t coming?”
“We can still eat seafood, right?” Sara asked.
If only I would have had the man’s phone number on a scrap of paper, I could have called him from Sara’s phone. But I had committed everything to my phone.
“Of course,” I said. “We definitely will eat seafood either way. If he’s not here by ten after, text John and see if he’ll go check my phone out in the car.”
I hated to put an additional burden on John. He had already skipped lunch for the sake of the interview, and was probably feeding the children. I was certain he wouldn’t relish running through the rain to look for my phone in the borrowed car, then search through it for messages. But what was there to do?
The minutes ticked by, and no Amish man appeared.
“There is a straw hat on the coat rack,” I pointed out to Sara.
“It could be decor,” she said.
She sent John a message.
“What’s your unlock code?” she asked.
I gave it, and soon John had broken into my phone. Sure enough, the Amish man had tried to call.
“Ask him to send us his number and I’ll call from your phone,” I suggested.
Sara typed away on her phone while I waited, watching each new guest that entered the restaurant. None of them were the right man.
Sara suddenly looked up from her phone and shot me an odd look.
“John just said that while he was there looking at your phone three robins flew into the car!”
“He tried to shoo them out and two flew out right away, but the other one started pooping everywhere. So now he’s trying to clean bird poop out of Abigail’s car!”
We couldn’t help laughing, even as we gazed at each other in astonishment. Like, this is the poster story for the saying, “No good deed goes unpunished.”
“Okay, WHAT is going on,” I said. “In all the many years I have lived, that has never happened to me.”
I called the Amish man back, and he was on his way after an unexpected delay. He apologized for being late, and I apologized for not having my phone. Then Sara updated me on the condition of the car I had, oh yes, borrowed.
“He tried cleaning it up but who’s to say none dropped into the vents,” Sara said. “You might not want to turn the heat on in the car, or you might have an unusual smell.”
What perfect timing for Abigail going to see her new boyfriend this weekend! (I’m not sure that she was planning to take the car, but still, it crossed my mind.)
On the bright side, we had a nice interview. We started with a silent prayer. I had some salad, a mustard hard-boiled egg and a nice serving of baked tilapia, although I had basically lost my appetite and I was focused on asking questions. Sara had some shrimp, and our host had snow crab legs, which he peeled and ate with ease while sharing inspiring thoughts.
I shot my cousin Laura a text the next night.
“Did Abigail find any bird poop in her car?”
We were on our way home the next day and I was trying to decide what to write in my blog post.
“I might write about the three robins,” I said.
“That’s crappy,” Marnell said.
Well, all I can say is, don’t forget your phone when you’re meeting someone you’ve never met. But if you’re going to do really stupid things, thank God if you have great people in your life who will clean bird poop out of a borrowed car.