That little yellow light had nagged me for long enough. That shining little firefly can’t be ignored forever. Sometimes I think I can hear it screaming at me from the dashboard. “Hey! You better stop soon! You know you’ll have to! Either you stop this car or I will!” But I test my limits, deny physics, and by the sheer power of will I am able to continue on. But after a while I have no choice but to give in, I can only convince myself that my gas tank is an everlasting wellspring of petroleum for so long. That little light glares menacingly as it casts ominous shadows across that bold, block lettered E. What is E whispering? E may be the fifth letter of the alphabet, but on the great political grand-stand of my dashboard, E is second in command, whispering, filling that little lights head with delusions of grandeur and oil lust.
I-5 is a very long, very lonely road. Dairy farms, alfalfa fields, and “congress created dust bowl” billboards make up the majority of the scenery. But every few miles there are the unmistakable signs of life. From miles away you can see the oasis with its looming towers, the white steel tree trunks that bear the load of huge gas station signs. The yellow sea shell that calms your heart yet sets a fire ablaze in your pocket. “Yes little light, the sea shell is near, calm down”
Pulling into a gas station on the I-5 is like sitting down on a crowded mega-church pew on a hot summers day. As I rolled slowly into the gas lot my eyes surveyed the pews for a place to sit down. Creeping past the rows I was met by slow turning heads that couldn’t help but condemn the latecomer. It was 10:48 and the late service started 18 minutes ago. I was “that guy” creeping in during “Lord fill me up”, praying that nobody noticed me slipping in. I continued to survey the sanctuary. Ah ha! One empty pump between the Volvo in khaki slacks and the PT cruiser in the purple flower dress. I had to “pardon me” past an usher or two, but I made it, just in time to meet the man in white.
Being the good Christian boy that I am, I have a natural suspicion of men dressed in entirely in white, especially if paired with a chin blanketed in full flowing facial hair. It seemed that today Jesus was trying to get to San Jose in his rusty Toyota pickup truck. Sure maybe his white long sleeve shirt had a few grease stains, and something I’d hoped was red wine on the cuffs. Sure his white jeans were covered in paint, and so what if his off white Nike running shoes were missing laces? Jesus didn’t need laces. Also, his twelve disciples may have been temporarily transfigured into twelve white trash bags filled with clothes and the rest of his mobile belongings piled high on the rear of that rusty donkey.
A long drawn “Heeey maaan” rasped it’s way through the fumes. His voluptuous vowels hit my ears with the same guilty pleasure as an accidental whiff of gasoline. I turned and saw Him. He glowed. The heat must have gotten to me. The stretched syllables continued,“Heeey maaan, my names Tooodd, I’m on my way to San Jose, could you spare some-” I cut him off. “Say no more ‘Todd'” I said with a wink.
Minutes later, the interstate savior, the messiah of mileage, the Emanuel no longer on empty journeyed on toward dusty San Jose with no place to lay his head.