[The Hawaiian Man cont'd] … I reached for the six-foot-long seatbelt dangling from the ceiling. It hung there helplessly, an obvious sign that the retraction spring had broken or jammed. I buckled into it anyway, partly out of habit and partly so that a medic scraping me off a median wall might notice my strong desire to live.
It was Grammy Awards night in L.A. At 1:00 a.m., the eight-lane freeway traffic was thick. I said hello to the other shadows in the van. Nobody answered. Something gave me the distinct impression that every one of them spoke a different language than me. We hurtled along in the dark on I-5. The Hawaiian Man kept fiddling with his keyboard on the dash, punching in odd numbers and letters that meant nothing to me at all. Every time he turned to read the LED, we swerved. I sat up tall enough to see how fast we were going in the carpool lane. It was just below ninety miles per hour, give or take “one.” There were innocent people in this van. I was one of them.
I distracted myself from this L.A. freeway madness by practicing my pronunciation of the highway exit signs: Carmenita. Rostrata. Caballero. La Palma. The rear seat in a stretch van, if you’ve never had the experience, offers a primer in pothole and road bump detail while making of one’s stomach a milkshake. Would that I had something in my stomach besides six pretzels from the airline “meal.” A milkshake sounded pretty good.
Here’s the strangest part of all: I not only trusted my life to The Hawaiian Man; I actually paid him for the experience! Still crazier, I tipped him, which I now consider not remuneration for good service, but a gift of gratitude for allowing me to step out alive at the Anaheim hotel. As I stumbled with my suitcase to the counter of the night clerk, one thought kept coming to my sleepy head. I said to myself, “If I can trust everything I am and care about to The Hawaiian Man, who plays so lightly and easily with my life, how much more can I trust myself to the Lord who doesn’t play lightly with me at all.” I knew the answer. I went to my room and slept like a baby.