When the Bus Wouldn’t Start

Saturday morning. I sat down in Willie’s huge driver’s seat and took a deep breath. We had about three hours to our next destination, Orange Park, Florida, and all the little zoo animals (aka children) were fed, watered, and ready to go. We had spent the night at a truck stop and were parked between two huge 18-wheelers. It was actually kind of a cozy spot.

The storms that went on to wreak so much havoc later in the day were passing through – the hurricanes stayed to the north of us, but heavy bands of rain pounded the roof and windows of the bus.

I turned the bus key to “on” and pushed the red button. Nothing. Uh-oh. This had happened once or twice before, and all I had to do was jump-start it with our van, but I did not want to go outside. I looked at all the buttons again, wondering if I had left something running overnight that drained the battery. I turned the key off and on again. Pushed the button. Not even a click.

Oh, man. The ran was pouring down in sheets. I couldn’t find my raincoat, so I put on a heavy, corduroy number created more for cold, dry, Pennsylvania winters than for warm, humid, tropical storm-like conditions. I put on a baseball cap. I tried to put on a good attitude.

Fortunately the jumper cables reached from the mini-van we are towing to the bus battery. I did all the hooking up, turned on the van, went back into the bus, and turned it on. Pushed the button. Nothing.

I went back outside and did what my driver’s ed teacher told us never to do: I banged the live ends of the jumper cables together to see if I had a spark. Nothing. What is going on? I’ll tell you what was going on – I was getting more and more wet. Soaked. I went back in to the bus to try one more time. That’s when I noticed something.

The bus was still in drive.

So the night before I must have parked, turned off the bus, and put on the parking brake. But I never put it back into neutral (there is no “park”).

I smiled to myself. Really, I did, right there on the over-sized driver’s seat with water dripping from the bill of my baseball cap, right there with my fake wool coat that weighed as much as an entire sheep. And this question entered my mind, right there at a truck stop in South Carolina.

How often is my life in drive when it should be in neutral?

I know, I know. All the big life gurus talk about how important drive is, how indispensable the go-get-’em disposition. And of course there is always a time for that dogged determination to make something happen.

But sometimes I feel like that’s all I’m ever doing. Drive, drive, drive. Push for this book deal, make another call about that project, write, write, write. Then I wonder why things don’t start up the way I want them to. I wonder why nothing happens, no matter how many ways I try to jump-start an idea, or a business plan, or a direction in life.

Maybe I just need to put things back in neutral.

What do you think it looks like to occasionally put your life in neutral?

9 Replies to “When the Bus Wouldn’t Start”

  1. As I fly home from a writer’s conference where the push to drive is huge, I find myself inclined (led?) to the neutral mode. Thanks for this reminder.

  2. I hope you are all keeping journals and taking pictures. You will treasure them after your Great Adventure is done. My husband and I spent two months traveling last summer in our RV, from PA all the way to the Pacific Ocean and back with many wonderful stops along the way. I made sure to write something in my journal every day, and love re-reading it! It took me three scrap books to fit about half of the pictures, and my journal was invaluable to this project.

    I feel your pain about your problem with Willie not starting. On day two of our travels we ran out of fuel and sat along the road in 90 + heat for two hours waiting for AAA to send someone with a can of deisel! Some other time I will tell you about our wonderful (NOT) 4th of July traveling experience.

    We enjoyed our travels so much that we plan to do it again this year, though you will be back home before we leave. Enjoy your experience and may God watch over you and keep you safe.

  3. Been feeling like this a lot lately. Just drive, drive, drive. And one of these day’s I will run out of gas!

  4. I had to laugh out loud at this! My husband has {numerous times} taken the keys out of the car without putting it in Park. Then I go to start the car the next day and it doesn’t start. Ha! :) Good reminder though, about taking some time and putting our lives back into Neutral.

  5. Great post! I am planning some extended times of neutral for the good of my being! Thanks for sharing the continued work God is doing in your life even in the moments less than desirable to mention.

  6. Sounds like Willie is pretty wise. He wants you to be in neutral for a bit, even though you want to be in drive.
    Isn’t there a serenity prayer like that? “Lord, give me the strength to keep myself in ‘drive’, the courage to stay in ‘neutral’, and the wisdom to know the difference?”

    Great post! Glad you didn’t have a repair bill early on in your trip!

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