here is a little story about how unexpected expectations can be.
Unexpected Opportunities –
Friday, June 13th – 8pm
The lights of the Monroe traveling center shined through the trees like an angel, sent to save poor Nina as she turned onto the exit ramp off Highway I-69. She only had a half hour to go and then finally this 5-hour road trip would end. But unfortunately, her poor little bladder wouldn’t make it that long. As it was, her sprint from her car into the travel center and then into the ladies bathroom was going to be the stuff of desperation anyway – and humiliating, should she not make it there in time.
She sped up the off ramp and followed the direction to the truckers’ parking area. Where the truckers were allowed to park seemed closer to the building than where cars were allowed to park. Tucking her white Focus between two 18-wheelers, she parked and barely got the car shut off before she opened the door and got out, sprinting to the building as she held her keys up in the air and clicked the button to lock her car.
Her sprint wasn’t nearly as quick as it needed to be given the circumstances. So she took her sandals off and high-tailed it as fast as she could. The heat of the day was still releasing from the macadam beneath her feet, giving her reason to pick her feet up more swiftly. She was almost there, almost. So with blackened soles and burnt piddies or not, she was determined to make it. But when she got to the door of the building, horror struck.
On that door, which turned out to the back door, was a sign that read: “Please Use the Front Entrance”.
Nina gritted her teeth and yanked on the door handle, hoping some kind-hearted soul would be nearby on the inside to unlock it and let her in. But such wasn’t the case. Peering through the glass, she could see the ladies bathroom and … of course … there was a line of waiting that was already three girls deep – out of the bathroom door. That meant that there was probably another eight or ten on the inside – all leaning up against the wall with crossed legs, engaging in idle meaningless conversation for distraction from their reason for being in that bathroom in the first place.
Releasing the door handle, she looked back at the trucks and her tiny little Focus – flanked by the Peterbilts. As it turned out, the car entrance was the one she wanted, after all. But there was no time to cry over spilled milk, especially if she didn’t want to spill anything else. So, she started sprinting around the side of the building, heading for the front entrance. It seemed embarrassment was unavoidable. She would either wet herself and blush through the possibilities that the evidence would stream down her legs – visible below the lower hem of her summer dress before she could get herself cleaned up … or … she would be seen sprinting frantically into the travel center – on an obvious desperation course to the bathroom.
Yanking the front door open and sprinting into the travel center, she came to a screeching halt as she clenched her bladder muscles to prevent an accident. Closing her eyes, she concentrated on breathing slowly, allowing her to catch her breath and lower her heart rate – all of which that were presently making her desperation worse. When she opened her eyes, she found herself being observed by two young couples who were sitting at one of the tables in the eating area. Standing up straight, she dropped her sandals to the floor, stepping into them and trying to make it seem as though her screeching halt was merely to put her shoes on.
But turning the corner and heading back to the bathrooms, she got another harrowing shock as the line to get into the ladies bathroom was now ten girls deep – outside the door. Wanting to cry, Nina got into the back of the line, leaned up against the wall and folded her arms in disgust. It was clear that the new people at the back of the line were a group of friends who were giving truth to the cliché thought that girls always went to the bathroom in groups. She could tell that none of them really had to pee at all. They were gabbing away and having a good ole time. And for as frustrating as it was for them to be in front of her, Nina found comfort in knowing that the line would move more quickly because none of them would be going into stalls – instead just walking up to the sinks to talk and check their appearances in the mirrors. But even if she had been in front of the gabbing non-peeing pack, her situation wouldn’t have improved at all. She still would’ve been made to wait. And waiting was the problem, at the moment.
Nina stared at the floor, sliding along the wall when the line moved forward. She was going to make it. She was determined to make it and determination was all she needed. It was the whole reason why she was standing in that line in the first place. And it was also the reason why, on a Friday night in the middle of June, Nina was making a road trip up Highway 69 in Michigan.
Nina had just graduated from Indiana State University a month ago. And the new graduate was headed to her summer job, one that had all-but fallen into her lap and one that had become an unexpected opportunity for her.
Back in February, she caught wind of auditions that were being held on campus by the U.P.T.A. (Unified Professional Theaters Auditions) organization. They were looking to employ quite a few people for various live theaters and other entertainment businesses for the coming summer. Specifically, they were looking for singers, dancers and actors. Nina wasn’t any of those kinds of people, but she could dance a little. So she decided to audition and give it a shot.
The bathroom line finally moved forward a lot as the gabbing girls all walked into the bathroom and Nina was able to lean up against the bathroom door. She did her best to stay upright, but the increasing need to pee was beginning to encourage her to double over. From the bathroom door, she could see that the line wasn’t much longer of a wait – thankfully. But the most horrifying thing of all was the cruelness of the builders of this travel center.
They had put individual sinks and mirrors inside the stalls. And what this meant was – there were only four stalls when there was actually enough room for at least eight. In addition, since the sinks and mirrors were put inside the stalls, this meant that everyone would take twice as long to get finished with their business. And to top it all off, the gabbing girls took their turns in the stalls to use the mirrors and sinks, but not the toilets.
By the time a stall opened up and Nina was able to get into it, she had slightly soaked the front of her panties. Rolling them down her legs and stepping out of them, she tossed the panties into the trash – then pulling up the lower hem of her summer dress and holding it above her waist as she squatted in mid-air to release the noisiest pee she had ever made. But she really didn’t care. It felt so good to relieve herself that the snickering in the other stalls didn’t bother in the least. And as her bladder emptied out, she softly sighed – her body beginning to sweat its feel of relief as well.
Unlike the gabbers in the bathroom, Nina quickly washed her hands and got out of the stall so the next desperate girl in line would make it there in time as well. Walking out of the bathroom, she made her way over to the food area, getting a strawberry milkshake – her reward for having made it to the bathroom without an accident, albeit a guilty pleasure as well.
Sitting in a quiet corner of the eating area, she opened the top of the milkshake and began to spoon the ice cream out since it had been made too thick to drink through a straw. But the quiet corner she chose suddenly lost its quietness as a clean-cut guy sat down at the table next to her. Sitting up straight and crossing her legs to protect her modesty as well as her lack of underwear, she inconspicuously straightened out her dress to reduce the unintentional cleavage shot that slouching had caused. Tucking her shoulder-length brunette locks behind her ears, she drew her attention back to her milkshake while keeping her peripheral vision attuned to the cute guy. She wasn’t being cautious or defensive in her shifting. Instead, she was just simply being herself – a girl who, like so many others, drew attention to herself without trying. And she seemed to be keeping control of her nerves … until the guy spoke.
“You’ve been traveling for a while, haven’t you?” the guy asked with a deep voice.
“Excuse me?” Nina asked back, politely. “What makes you say that?”
“Well, it’s going on night time and you’re in Michigan and you’re dressed like it’s still sunny and warm outside,” the guy answered, smiling with kindness in his eyes. “You don’t strike me as a girl who lives nearby.”
Crossing her legs more tightly, Nina smiled at his superficial explanation – knowing that it meant he had probably checked her figure out at some point.
“I come from Indiana,” Nina answered, figuring it to be safe to talk with him – so long as she didn’t give any specific details about herself to him. “So I’m not too far from home.”
“Well, I don’t wanna make you uncomfortable. I just wanted to say hello,” the guy said politely, then beginning to get up.
“Wait,” she said, motioning for him to sit back down. “What makes you think you’d make me uncomfortable?”
“Well, you got a milkshake and then sat in a section of tables with no one nearby. I thought this to mean that you wanted to be alone,” the guy answered. “I actually came over here to make sure that you weren’t suffering from a case of Triskaidekaphobia.”
Nina looked at him strangely and then graced him with the obvious question he was waiting for her to ask.
“What is Triskaidekaphobia?” Nina asked, expecting his witty attempt to turn her off.
“It’s a fear people have of Friday the 13th,” the guy answered. “It’s actually a phobia that cripples people sometimes.”
“Oh,” Nina said, quite surprised. “I didn’t know that.”
“Well I’m glad to see you’re not suffering from it,” the guy said, getting up. “I wish you well for safe travels.”
Then the guy started walking away.
“Is everyone in Michigan as nice as you?” she asked, making him turn around.
“Well, all except for the die-hard Michigan Wolverine fans,” the guy said, making her laugh. “What brings you to our neck of the woods?”
“Unexpected opportunity,” Nina answered coyly, smiling at him.
“Those are the best kinds of opportunities,” the guy said, smiling back at her.
“And why is that?” Nina asked, beginning to enjoy this playful bit of flirting.
“Because the things we don’t expect are free from our tendencies to turn them into something more than what they are,” the guy answered. “And that way, we can enjoy them without pretenses.”
Nina smiled brightly. What a wonderful way of looking at it. She had worn facades quite a few times in her life and had been let down by her expectations. He had a good point.
“The question you need to ask yourself is: Will this unexpected opportunity be something that you squander or will it be something worth traveling to get to again?” the guy asked.
“Well,” Nina said, finishing her strawberry milkshake. “I wish I could answer that, but I don’t know yet.”
“Excellent,” the guy replied. “What that shows about you is that you’re not pretending to know something that, with honesty, you can’t possibly know yet.”
“What I do know is this …” Nina said, standing up and walking with him over to the trash receptacles. “Whatever this summer holds for me, whether expected or unexpected, I’ll be spending all of my time in climax.”
The guy shared a cheeky grin with her.
“And if that’s all you know about it, then I’d say you’re headed in the right direction,” the guy replied. “Blessings on your journey.”
“I never got your name,” Nina called to him as he began walking away.
“You will,” the guy answered, continuing to walk away – Nina thinking nothing of his answer and heading for the entrance doors.
She left the travel center with a skip in her steps, a far different one from when she walked in. What a wonderfully playful bit of harmless flirting. Oh, my. If every bit of flirting would end just like that one did, she’d knowingly welcome every last moment of the attention she always got from guys. Some guys understood limits. Others did not. And whoever that guy was, he certainly understood a lot.
Getting into her car, she got back onto Highway 69. Her destination was literally what she had told that guy. In a half hour, she would be arriving in Climax, Michigan – her home for that summer.
When she auditioned for the U.P.T.A.s back in February, she had no summer job lined up and was uncertain what opportunities a degree in social work would present to her. As she discovered, she truly shouldn’t have expected anything. A college degree was an expensive necessity, often meaning nothing in the working world anymore. And the unexpected was more welcoming of her than anything else.
Though she was a mediocre dancer at best, her audition for the U.P.T.A.s actually yielded her summer employment at The Village Resort. It was a summer resort just outside of Climax, Michigan that, inside of its first five summers, had built up a clientele from Chicago as people living in the busy, bustling city were looking for a summer retreat – away from the noise.
Turning onto the clover leaf exit, she began to head west on Highway 94. And a few miles down the road, she took exit 92 onto Highway 37, entering Climax, Michigan – her destination at the end of her 5-hour trek from her hometown of Terre Haute, Indiana. The town was little and quaint. First called Climax Prairie at its inception, the town name was later shortened to Climax in 1874. Entering the town, she saw the stone monument to Hiram Moore, an 1800’s inventor who had created the predecessor invention to the common farming combine.
It was because of such low attendance at the auditions that Nina was hired. And this was the reason why she viewed it as an unexpected opportunity. Nina had barely been considered talented enough for hire. But she didn’t see that as an insult – instead, just a bit of luck that had dropped in her lap a gem she didn’t yet fully understand.
Driving slowly through the center of town, she saw the park next to the Lawrence Memorial Public Library. Climax seemed to be a lot less active than the present-day definition of its name. But she liked how calm life seemed to be there. It had an uncommon and … unexpected charm to it.
But there was no way she could’ve known what was in store for her that summer. Even with her practical book smarts and common sense in check, the trip to the clouds-n-back that awaited her would be just as unexpected as the job itself. Little did she know – the advice that the handsome stranger back at that travel center had given her would come into full play and by the end of August, she would learn that unexpected opportunities weren’t just what made life worth living, but would also yield the one thing she was looking for – a direction to go.
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