The cityscape rippled in the waves of heat coming off the highway- it was beautiful. The U.S. Bank Tower was barely discernible in the distance. The skyscraper looked as if it just barely stood taller than its neighbors. The van sped south, down the highway and my excitement grew with each passing mile. I love Los Angeles.
I’d been picked to drive a majority of the way, since I basically knew where we were going. Everyone else rotated in and out of the front passenger seat to keep me company. A new person had tagged along during the trip. He was an acquaintance from somebody’s work or something like that. Once it was his turn, we started talking about church, our careers, passions and everything else under the sun. It turned out that we had a lot in common. He chose to stick it out in front with me, even when it had come time for someone else to take his place.
The city’s details became clear as we neared the metropolis. The U.S. Bank Tower’s crown and various levels stood out and the Pelli Tower and the Aon Center became discernable. Even from this distance, the discoloration of the atmosphere above Los Angeles was obvious. It hung about the city and rose into the sky, dissipating with distance. More and more, traffic seemed to surround the van as we closed in on our destination.
My new friend started talking about some of his basic beliefs. I started to realize that I didn’t agree with many of them. I was fine with that, I like hearing from different perspectives, but really, his Christianity and mine were anything but similar. I tried to butt in to ask clarifying questions on more than one occasion, but the conversation had morphed into sort of a rant. I kept waiting for an opportunity to offer my insight- he’d have to breathe at one point or another.
Graffiti and garbage appeared along the road. Plastic bags, abandoned lawn chairs, empty cigarette packs and whatever else had collected around desert brush nearby. The occasional low-hanging billboard and overpass walls wore red, green and black spray paint like a badge.
One of the girls finally yelled, “Shut your freaking face already!” at the man who’d accompanied me at the front of the van too long now.
He didn’t even flinch. By this point, he was completely facing me and was presenting everyone in the van with his most well-thought out ecclesiastical philosophies. I was ready to lean over him, open his door and help him exit the vehicle, even though it was still moving. What had I done to encourage such a tirade? If listening was my guilt, I’d certainly learned my lesson.
★ ★ ★
Somebody might look cool, awesome or whatever from a distance, but as you or I get closer to them, the small, uglifying details become increasingly clear. It’s true in any relationship- I hear this phenomenon is the most shocking when it comes to spouses. I’ll confirm or disprove that when I reach that point in my life. Fortunately, our responses make the most of these situations. We can choose to love people in spite of their flaws, much like my affection for Los Angeles, or we can decide to discard them- from moving vehicles on busy freeways. Really, only one of those options is acceptable, but the other just feels good, so we’ll consider it for a while before deciding against it.