Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Christmas lights earn their keep

At 4:10 this morning, the dogs went absolutely hysterical with barking. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is something humans can't see and 10 is a Bernese Mountain Dog (don't ask me why, but they think that's the apocalypse), this was an 11. And then the doorbell rang, which escalated it to a 12.

The s.o. and I staggered out of bed, and he approached the front door to assess the situation. He glanced through the curtain. "It's a girl," he murmured, and fell back to let me do the talking. (This made sense because he was shirtless, whereas I was wearing a t-shirt and a lovely pair of flannel pyjama pants with holiday-themed kittycats all over them, given to me by J. And handknit socks, although that's neither here nor there--it's just nice.)

On our porch was a woman about our age, upper-middle-class or thereabouts, black, and extremely apologetic for waking us. She was from Atlanta, she explained, and she was lost. She wanted to know how to get to I-20.

As I gave her directions, it occurred to me how brave she was to stop. Imagine approaching an unknown house in the rural South at 4 in the morning, alone, and ringing the doorbell--then being greeted by a barrage of barking. Yet she did it, and she was still standing meekly on the porch by the time we opened the door. I felt a rush of compassion for her.

We chatted a bit. She had a daughter studying at Le Cordon Bleu who had needed to be dropped off somewhere (I don't know where or why; this part of the story didn't get filed in my long-term memory because I was too groggy). The place was supposed to be "just a couple exits past Covington," but had turned out to be an hour farther down the interstate. And now, having delivered the daughter to her destination, she'd gotten hopelessly turned around--and, considering the remoteness of our location, had probably been wandering for quite some time. I'm assuming her cell phone wasn't working, either. They often don't around here.

"I'm so sorry to bother you," she repeated.

"No, I'm glad you did," I said. "There's not much out here, and the roads feel really lonely if you don't know the area."

"I stopped here because of your lights," she confessed. "You looked like you had the Christmas spirit."

Usually we turn our holiday lights off when we go to bed. But I was suddenly very, very happy we had forgotten to flip the switch last night. I hope she found the Interstate easily and was home in bed by 6 am!