Walkin’ the tightrope

Cutting down a highway from two lanes to one is never a good idea, especially when that highway leads to an airport. Airports have scheduled departures, and those don’t change just because the traffic went goofy.

I learned this yesterday, as I was on highway 183 toward Bergstrom Airport in Austin, Texas. I had never been to Austin before, and was there for a day to work with some colleagues of mine. The company and the barbecue were top-notch, and the time flew by rather quickly. Before I knew it, it was time to hop in the rental car and head home.

But the traffic didn’t cooperate the way I wanted it to. For many minutes, the GPS on my phone indicated that I was around 20 minutes away, but the crawling rate of traffic suggested otherwise.

Fortunately, I had a contingency plan hidden away in my computer bag. The traffic was slow enough that I could search around for it, too. It came in the form of a Stevie Ray Vaughn CD which I had been carrying around for months, and possibly even years. I had happened upon it as I was emptying out my bag for the trip, and decided to hold onto it since Texas and SRV seemed inseparable in my mind.

When the first strains of Texas Flood came over the speakers, I knew things were going to be all right. The sounds of Vaughn’s guitar–along with his backing band–calmed me down and chilled me out. Whether it would have had the same effect on me anywhere else is something I couldn’t say for certain. But being stuck in traffic in Austin gave me a chance to appreciate his music in a way that I don’t think I had before, and may not be able to ever again.

I didn’t have a full appreciation of his music before he was killed in a helicopter crash in Wisconsin in 1990. In the years since, I’ve come to realize what an amazing guitarist he was, and how much we all lost when his life was cut short. I have no doubt that the music that he made in the studio paled in comparison to what he did onstage, and I would have loved the opportunity to watch him play live. But a foggy day and a helicopter ride took that all away. A traffic jam and a CD player in a rental car was the best I could hope for, and it was enough to get me through.

By the time I came to the root of the backup–a stalled school bus in the right hand lane–all but the final song on the CD had played themselves through. I stepped on the gas, determined to make up for the time that had been lost along the way. I made the flight on time, and was grateful that fate had given me an opportunity to dig out the CD and put it on first. And I was extra grateful for the musical legacy that Stevie Ray Vaughn left us. Here’s one more example before I go. Enjoy.

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