No Show

In Google I Trust…. NOT!

My GPS brought me here.  I am sitting in my rental car in front of a vacant lot.  A vacant lot that is supposed to be a church where I am to perform in one hour.

I have never missed a show.  In 37 years of touring and performing… never been a “no show.” Only a handful of times have I arrived late for the set up (not the show) due to traffic delays, etc.  I have only canceled or rescheduled a couple of shows in my career, those due to family emergencies.  I figure for all the hundreds of performances I have given… my record is pretty good.

I had a performance in Spokane, WA a few weeks ago.  A typical morning worship service.  I had booked the performance well in advance.  The pastor was going to be away and I was to do one of my presentations in place of the sermon.  We talked details, I sent an agreement to the church. I got all the address, phone numbers, etc. from the church website.  I sent the agreement off to the church via email… everything looked good.  A week before my arrival I had called the church to talk through all the details with my contact person.  Even exchanged cell phone numbers “just in case.” We were good to go.

I always plan to arrive at a venue one hour before the program begins.  It is usually more time than I need to set up and sound check, my performances are simply staged.  But I allow for the hour just in case.  I am an “arrive too early” rather than “too late” sort of guy.

So here I am sitting in front of this empty lot wondering what went wrong.  My GPS has let me down a few times before.  I double check the address, Google it again on my smart phone.  As far as Google Maps is concerned I have arrived.  Hmmm… maybe they have the east and west messed up–maybe it is on West 2nd instead of East 2nd.  I drive the street and go to the corresponding address on West 2nd… no, this isn’t it, unless they meet in a laundromat .  Glad I have that one hour buffer!

Time to call the church… it rings… and then goes to a fax tone! What!?  Oh well, no problem… I have the cell phone of the contact person.  I dial, it rings, and rings…and then voicemail.  NO!  I leave a message. And then say a quick prayer!

I have a friend in who lives in Spokane, maybe he can shed some light.  “Hey Jerry, is there more than one 2nd Ave. in Spokane?”

“Not that I am aware of,” says Jerry.

I dial the contact cell again… no answer, voicemail. I try a text message… no reply.

I am starting to sweat. About a half hour till showtime!

Okay, think, Chuck, think.

I call the numbers again, and again, and again.

Maybe another church of the same denomination can help. I Google again.  Aha… there’s one, I will drive to that church and see if I can find somebody that knows where this church is!

Did I happen to mention that this was one of the busiest weekends of the year in Spokane?  HoopFest…the largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament in the world is taking place on the streets of Spokane this weekend.   The downtown streets are cordoned off to make way for 400 basketball courts for the competition.  The nearest church requires me to drive through downtown.    I start to drive there and quickly come to a standstill in traffic.  I realize I will never make it to that church in time, let alone get from there to the correct destination.  I try calling them… no answer.

I drive back and wait in front of the vacant lot.  More prayer, more sweat.

There is a man doing some yard work in front of his house.  “Excuse me sir, do you know anything about a church that is supposed to be at this address?”

He scratches his beard for a moment, “Yes, there used to be one there but they moved over a year ago. Don’t know where they went”

Moved!?  Somebody forgot to tell Google!

The clock is ticking… I am running out of options.  Well, I did give them MY cell number too… maybe they will call me when they realize I am not there.  Surely they have noticed by now!?

Maybe they have tried to call my office, which is in my home. Lorie doesn’t usually answer my office phone… but worth a shot.  I call Lorie.

“Honey, did my office phone ring this morning?”

“Yes,” she says, ”just a few minutes ago.”

She gives me the number in the caller id… a Spokane exchange.

Finally… I call the number and we connect.

Service has started but they are waiting… no problem, just hurry. But where? Different address… about 15 minutes away.

Turns out the church moved because the city bought the land to do some road expansion.  In the process they also changed the church name.  So I was looking for a church that didn’t exist. About the website? “Oh is that site still out there? I guess we forgot to take it down.”  The contact person forgot their cell phone at home, which explains the no answer… she also forgot to bring my cell phone number with her.

In the future, you can bet I will be double checking addresses before I leave home!

They were a wonderful and gracious audience. I’m glad that my record is still intact. I was not a “no show,” just a late show!

Stressful, to be sure… but at the same time, I was thinking “this is going to make a great story.” That’s the thing about stories, so many of them come from things that go wrong.

Now before you forget, check to see if Google, your website, and the facts are in sync!

Depends on Your GPS

I was leaving a busy restaurant tonight with a friend I had not seen in years. As we were saying our good-byes on the sidewalk a voice calls out to us. “Excuse me, can I ask you men a question?”

The voice came from a fairly well dressed woman seated on a bench near the door to the restaurant. She smiles and then stares at me, and says, “you look familiar.” Not able to figure out how that might be… this is Georgia and I am from Oregon… and have rarely performed in the area. She then proceeds to ask our help. She tells us that she has been at the airport all day, her flight canceled and the airline has put her up at the hotel across the street. She says that she embarrassed to admit it but she needs to get $24 to get some Depends. She roles up her pant leg to reveal a tube that is set up to connect to a colostomy bag.

The woman then also shares how she was waiting for a table to get something to eat at the restaurant and that someone man said loud enough for her to hear “what’s that smell?”

“That’s when I came out here to sit.” she says “I have been in these clothes all day and I am not clean, I just need $22 to get some Depends.”

Both my friend and I look at each other…neither of us reach for our wallets… but we are both processing. “Is there a store nearby?” my friend asks. She tells us that the shuttle driver said the closest place was a Krogers. My friend and I then excuse ourselves saying, “well, let’s look and see what is nearby.” This is a busy area and surely there must be a drug store nearby. Not immediately seeing anything, we both walk to the end of the parking lot to see what might be in the neighborhood. As we move out of earshot of the woman I ask my friend “do you believe her?”

My friend says, “I would feel better if she showed us an airline ticket.” I think we both have some doubt but at the same time, how could we be so heartless as to ignore this woman’s need. It has to be humiliating to ask for this kind of help, we are willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. We are willing to try to restore some measure of her dignity.

We both simultaneously pull out our cell phones. Both our phones have GPS and so it is dueling cellphone GPS systems, to see who can find the nearest drug store. Bingo! I find one… a CVS about a mile and a half away.

As we are zeroing in on the location the lady comes over to us… “the shuttle driver says he would take me to Krogers.” I explain that we are looking for a drugstore nearby, “Our phones have GPS–and I found a CVS nearby.”

She says “oh they won’t be open.”

My friend says, “Yes, they are open 24 hours.” then he asks,”Do you have an airline ticket I could see?”

“It’s in the hotel room, but I have a room key” and shes shows us an electronic key.
Then she asks “do you have a car?”

“Yes” my friend says.

“Oh, just forget it” she says and walks away, down the street, away from us, away from the restaurant… away from the hotel.

There were other clues that I missed until reflecting further. If she had no money, how was she planning to eat in this restaurant that would probably cost her at least $15 for a modest meal. She was quick to show us the tubing for the colostomy bag… but there was no bag… only the tubing…meaning that the liquid would have just… well, you know. And the price of Depends dropped from $24 to $22 in a matter of seconds…

We were not heartless, both my friend and I were determined to help her. We were going to go to the store and buy that lady some Depends. She was convincing… she was not the “typical” street beggar. And of all the stories I have heard from the typical street beggars, this was certainly a new one!

Modern technology. A GPS became a truth detector.

Chuck Neighbors

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