Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Day at the DMV ~ You Never Know Who You Will Meet

I Love the DMV

It seems that with modern technology and all it can do for us, we have been able to move on from the regular mundane tasks that we used to consider a way of life.  One of those tasks for me was the annual trip to the DMV.  But now, with online registration and electronic submittal of smog certifications, there really isn't a need to actually go stand in line any longer...or so I thought.  Yesterday, I spent four hours either standing in line or sitting on the sidewalk saving my place beside someone who is probably the most interesting person I've ever come in contact with.  She definitely ranks in my top five.

This post isn't really about the DMV or why I had to take half my day to go there, nor is it about the person I met and her reason for being there.  We both had out of the ordinary situations; I realize now how lucky I am to have had a reason to be there. This post is a reminder that we never know what, or who, may be put in our paths. We can only be so lucky that it may be someone or something that speaks to us on a level we never knew was there.

When I first arrived at the DMV I noticed the line snaked around the side of the building.  I braced myself for a long wait.  Luckily I had book in hand and knew that I would get a good bit of time to read, interrupted only by the automated voice over the loud speaker calling out the next number in line.  I can remember being thankful that I was reading an actual book and not one on my iPad as I was outside and the glare from the life-giving (and searingly hot) sun would have definitely made it difficult to continue.   The lady standing next to me commented on her love of reading and reluctance to embrace new technology.  She was excited to find another bibliophile who preferred a print version over an electronic version of a great book.  Boy am I glad I didn't bring my iPad! I didn't have the heart to tell her that I love technology and work with gadgets, programs and devices all day long.  I just smiled and nodded in agreement and asked her what she was reading at home.  From that moment I hung on her every word.  I was so afraid the line would advance to the point where we would go our separate ways.

Our conversation shifted from the books we were reading to the places we grew up.  We noticed there were some people standing in line very politely, against the building,   making sure the newcomers had a means to pass on the sidewalk.  We also noticed others who were so enthralled with whatever was on their smart phones that folks either had to walk on the hill below the sidewalk to take their spot in line, or wait and ask the person to move aside.  The offender on the phone would usually look irritated that they had been interrupted. Those reactions irritated my new friend and me.   The woman I had met,  I need to give her a name now ~ I think it will be Ann (I'm so sad we didn't get each other's names), said you can tell where a person was raised by how they act in crowded situations.  She said she was a mountain woman and that she was raised to always be looking for others who needed help.  I told her I was a mountain woman, too, or at least I was raised in the mountains.  She said she could tell.  I liked that.

It turns out Ann was from the Central California mountains but had moved to the San Diego mountains ten years ago.  That just happens to be when we moved to San Diego as well.  She said she had been a truck driver for over 30 years and she had spent a great deal of time in the North Carolina mountains where I grew up.  She knew almost every detail of everywhere our family had ever lived.  We talked about my husband being in the Navy and us having lived all over the country.  She was a very patriotic seeming person and made sure to tell me to thank my husband for his service.  She said she loved the life of a truck driver.  She worked for herself as she had her own rig.  She took jobs she felt good about and truly felt she was providing a service to the public by helping to transport needed goods from point A to point B.  She told me she was retired now, but still provides transport of horses in her trailers and pick-up.  I got the sense from her that she felt passionately about everything she did.  She had a deep love of animals and their well being ~ another topic we had in common.

She told me about her granddaughter and daughter who were visiting and all the fun they had had.  She had taken her granddaughter out kayaking and hiking.  She later worked into the conversation that she was in her late sixties.  I couldn't believe it.  Yes, she had the face of someone who had worked hard and spent a lot of time outdoors, but I would have never believed she was a day over 55 or so.  The wrinkles on her face were like a road map of her life experiences, with each wrinkle being brought on by another smile or belly laugh that comes up from the toes. She was dressed in shorts and a polo shirt with a ranchers vest over her shirt. It was her shoes, though, or should I say boots, that I loved most.  They were a very expensive brand of working boots.  You could tell they were her favorite shoes by how worn they were.   I was sure she wore them because as soon as she returned from the DMV, should would be starting her feeding rounds of all the horses and farm animals she takes care of on not only her ranch and farm, but those of her neighbors.  She said it takes her about 2.5 hours each day just to do the last feeding. She was amazing.  I asked her how she kept up with everything and how she had the energy to do all she was doing.  She told me that the secret to good health and lasting energy is humor.  She said everyone needs to learn to laugh every day, all day long.  She then started to tell me how she had used humor as a treatment to save her life.

It turns out that Ann was a cancer survivor.  She had had 27 surgical procedures and four rounds of chemotherapy.  Her first bought with Melanoma Carcinoma and chemotherapy was back in 1989.  She had three subsequent chemo treatments in 1994, 1998 and 2004.  Each time her doctors were giving her a very grim outlook and preparing her and her family for the worst, expecting her to be gone within the year.  She said she became  her own medical advocate and that her number one treatment was laughter.  She had always been a positive person and someone who loved comedy.  She began to watch videos, read books, listen to audiotapes of all the famous comedians and of the the funniest shows she could remember.  She would go to comedy shows and improv nights wherever and whenever she could.  She said she knew she had had a good day if she could laugh until she cried.  She stayed positive throughout and changed her diet long before good clean eating was trendy or even prescribed for good health.

She admitted that her personality is a little brash and that she could definitely be a pest in the medical scene with her doctors.  She was misdiagnosed numerous times when she knew she was having a recurrence of the disease.  She kept fighting though and changed doctors numerous times to get the help and diagnosis she knew was right for her.  In all her 27 procedures, only two of them proved to be unneeded.  I figure she saved her life numerous times.  I looked at her in amazement.  She must get that look lots because she acknowledged it by laughing and saying that there must be some crazy reason why she's still around.  She said she hopes she can be an example to others.  She also told me about all the volunteer work she does at the John Wayne Cancer Society.  She leads classes guessed it, Humor Therapy!

As our time in line was nearing an end, she told me a bit about her life in retirement.  She has horses of her own and cares for two other ranches.  She has goats and chickens ~ I was very excited to hear this as we are hoping to do the same some day.  She talked about how her dream of having an organic garden has come true now that she doesn't have to do trucking runs any longer.  She said that she grows enough organic produce to feed her entire community.  She has started a garden co-op as well as a dairy co-op with her goats' milk and eggs.  She educates all those around her on the benefits of eating organically.  She is my dream person and I want to be just like Ann some day!  She even makes her own cheeses, lotions and soaps!

We ended our time wishing each other well.  She told me I needed to stress less and laugh more and asked me what my health condition was.  She could tell.  I'm not sure how...maybe all of us that have gone through health issues are somewhat intuitive.  Or, maybe Ann truly has a gift for reaching out to others and knowing their needs even when they don't know their own.  I told her about my Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis and that I was doing fairly well.  I told her about my shift to eating only organic foods and how that's made an improvement on my everyday health and slowed the progression of the MS.  I also told her that I love to laugh and plan to do much more of it in the future, thanks to her great advice.  She was happy to hear that and then gave me a big hug.

To Ann ~ With Love, From Alison