It was pouring down rain on a Friday afternoon at the Metro transit center. I was waiting on my bus when a man asked me to ride with him so he could use the HOV lane. This is not uncommon. Many people ride to and from downtown with complete strangers because it can be faster than waiting on the bus. I make it a policy never to do it because I don’t like people, especially ones that I might be trapped in the car with for 30 minutes or more. That day, however, I must have been out-of-sorts, because when he asked if I was going to the 214 lot, I said yes. He was around 60 with a balding head and the air of a fanatic about him, mainly in the eyes. His glasses looked to be about 25 years old & pressed much too close to his face, like he had been punched squarely between the eyes. Not heeding this visual clue, I hopped into his front seat & immediately knew it was going to be a dicey ride because I saw a CD called “Saviour-17 Greatest Hits” next to the gearshift. Sure enough, we roll out & he starts adjusting the CD player & telling me about how he plays this song for all of his ” new riders”. It reminds me for a moment of how I liked to cue up a favorite tune for the commute to high school, but I note the gold crucifix medallion glued to his dash & I know it’s not going to be a song by the Replacements. He proceeds to describe his high school math teacher, who sang the song he was about to play, a hymn he sang at his son’s wedding in 1972. I tried to talk over it with questions like, “Must have been a reel-to-reel recording transferred to a disc”, but I still managed to hear singing about heaven’s gates or something. He went on to tell me that he played that very song as a surprise at a recent high school reunion and everyone was so amazed that their long departed teacher had such talent and love for the Lord. He pulled that CD out, popped in a Paul Harvey’s greatest hits disc and then filled me in on the back story to our national anthem. Near the end of our time together in the HOV lane, he urgently instructed me to find something to write on. All I could see were tightly-wrapped bags of snacks- chex mix & chips packed around the center console. He finally noticed a Post-It pad next to his Jesus medallion and told me to write down 2 websites. One was where the mathematician’s son had posted more hymns that his father sang when he was not fussing with all those numbers and the other was for a must-see video on YouTube about God and a dog. “You see,” he made a point to tell me, “Dog is God spelled backwards.”
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