Seeing really beautiful sights in the paradise which is Cherokee County in far southwestern North Carolina is so common that it almost amounts to sensory overload. That’s especially the case in my quaint, Really-Good-Town, USA, that is, Andrews. There are Flowers for the Immaculate Conception everywhere. Great!
Oh, I forgot, that’s called virtue signaling, not the bit about Flowers for the Immaculate Conception being everywhere, but the bit about Really Good Town, USA. Could it be that the good Lord had these Flowers for His good mom here in such superabundance because, instead, Really Good Town, USA, is just like any other town USA, or is it actually the most drug filled, den of thieves anywhere, at least that being the reputation far and wide into the surrounding states?
I took this picture from the point of view of the street side gas-pumps here in town just after being really stupid, twice in a row. I’m so stupid.
While filling up Sassy the Subaru for today’s “Day Off” road trip to help in construction of the Communion Rails for our church sanctuary renovation, I was practicing my usual situational awareness, which includes a hobby of memorizing all the cars and license plates in the parking lot of the convenience store / gas station as well as the cars passing by on main street. I get a good look at the walkers and skateboarders and bicyclers and those getting out of their vehicles. It’s good entertainment. This helps in noticing possibilities of de-escalation maneuvers and avoidance of stupidity worse than my own lack of over-the-top skill sets, not that anything is ever going to happen, but it’s just skill sharpening. And it’s good fun.
What happened next – twice – is a good lesson in filling in the gaps of situational awareness. Topping up the gas tank with an extra gallon after it has already clicked off has long been a habit since a “Day Off” will often amount to mileage that will not entirely drain the tank, but will have me running on fumes, quite literally, by the time the return trip is over. Topping off the tank provides a little leeway to burn fuel in the frequent traffic jams on certain highways on the yonder side of the “Day Off”.
The trouble is that when topping off the tank in this way, attention is solidly and only on what you’re doing, lest fuel is spilled onto the car and pavement and yourself. That’s means situational awareness is right at zero. Bad mistake.
While I was doing this topping off, one of the most notorious druggies in town came out of the store (I didn’t know he was in there) and went out of his way to do something I’ve never seen anyone do before. He took a severe detour to slide through the cars on the store side of the pumps, and then squeeze through the space between the pump I was at on the street side and the garbage container / squeegee bucket that was there, just so as to be inches directly in back of me, with my back turned to him, occupied as I was with topping off the tank. I instantly turned. He instantly stopped and froze, hesitating, mumbling unrepeatable things, hesitating, and then slowly walking off, continuing to mumble away. When he arrived to the far side of the parking lot, I went back – oh so stupidly – to doing exactly what I was doing before: topping off the tank, losing once again all situational awareness. Just because one incident is over doesn’t mean it’s over.
The entire scene was repeated again. Another one of the most notorious druggies came out of the store and did the same thing, with me being entirely oblivious. I again turned around realizing someone was inches away in back of me. He stopped, froze, hesitated, and actually started turning around to square off with me. He hesitated again, stopping mid-turn, mumbling unrepeatable things, but then kept moving, mouth yapping away.
Mind you, there was zero threat from me either in movement or in verbiage. I said nothing. I didn’t move from where I was. I was just taking in the scenery.
But here’s a confession: I thought by now any such weirdness would be over, what with two incidents clocked in already. And the weirdness was over. But I didn’t know that. Nevertheless, I continued topping off the tank, again losing all situational awareness. Having said all that, I have to say that once I do learn a lesson, it’s ingrained. I was immediately reflecting on this – post hoc – a learning experience.
Some might say that I should use these occasions as teaching moments of evangelization, but, really, there is a time and place for that – any other time, any other place – but waiting for a lit match to be flicked at your gas pump, hose stuck in your vehicle, blocking an escape route, is not the time or the place. Evangelization at that moment would surely be escalation because it may well be perceived as… virtue signaling…
NOT being aware of the druggies at a vulnerable moment at the gas pumps like this means that I do not perceive myself to be as bad and evil as I congratulate myself to be. If I were to be more honest with myself, who I would be without the grace of God, I would know that this kind of aggressive posturing on the druggies part might be a likely possibility also at the gas pumps. They have already shown their violent aggressiveness, having many times times threatened to beat the brains out of my neighbor’s sweet and ultra-shy-dog (who barks only at the druggies, no one else). But if I were to actually have some honest self-awareness, I would have to have some humility. Oops. I’m guessing I could request some help in humility from my guardian angel. I will ask him to be gentle in the smack downs he might well provide.
Meanwhile… meanwhile… our dear Lord has been providing Flowers for the Immaculate Conception, His good mom, all along. I saw this tree right after the two druggies at the gas pumps experience and, now sitting in the car at the gas pumps, ready to go, I had to take the picture. How surreal, thought I, equally stupidly, with such events being back to back. Not at all surreal.
You know what’s really surreal (so to speak)? It’s the likes of me giving flowers to the Immaculate Conception.
Except that it’s not. Jesus creates these flowers and has us notice them precisely so that we can give them to His good mom. She has interceded for all of us, we who, so oblivious to reality, crucified her Divine Son, the Son of the Living God with our sins following up on original sin. This is God doing this for us, for her, she who stood under the Cross. How could we do such a thing, torturing her Son to death right in front of her? Are we drugged out of our minds, not knowing what we are doing? Pretty much. Yep.
Flowers for you, Mary, right in the middle of Really Good Town, USA, right from one of the worst residents if not but for the grace of God, for which, Mary, you offered intercession. Yes, these flowers for you, dearest Mother of God and ours.