I felt anxious about all sorts of things yesterday: would we get out of town before the hockey game traffic clogged the streets? Could I exit the municipal parking garage (where I was told I should park if I didn't want valet parking) with no issues? Could I get all my stuff to the car before my check out time? Would the hotel honor my tax-exempt status as a member of a non-profit organization travelling on business?
I went ahead and settled the bill early, at 6:30 a.m., which was smart of me, with no trouble about the tax-free status. I got the car mostly loaded while waiting for the breakfast buffet to open. But I resisted soothing my other exit anxieties by leaving the conference early. I really wanted to see the session about faith and writing.
I'm very glad I stayed--it was an excellent panel, and a great way to end the conference. I wrote about the panel in this post on my theology blog. After the panel, my grad school friend and I went out for lunch, which was also an excellent way to end our stay. I confess, I had two desserts, and they were worth it.
Because of the hockey game, the municipal garage was set up to have people exit without stopping at the pay-your-ticket stand. There were stern signs telling us to keep the traffic moving to the exit. I followed instructions.
There were no signs telling me how to get back to the expressway that would get me back to I 75. I didn't find downtown Tampa very navigable. I was glad that the Embassy Suites was a tower of a hotel, because that's how I found it. Leaving yesterday, I was able to follow my instincts and get to the expressway. I wasn't sure I was actually headed in the right direction on the expressway until I actually got to the Interstate.
I didn't have great driving conditions on the way home. For an hour around Sarasota, we averaged about 25 miles an hour, except for when the traffic seemed to be moving normally. And then, an hour into my journey home, the rain started. Luckily, it was never the tropical downpour that makes driving so tricky.
When I made the turn to go across the state through the Everglades, I thought I was headed to worse weather. I thought I might be about to experience something supernatural and otherworldly as the dark, feathery clouds swooped down. I thought about a poem about guardian angels with wings made out of rain and Everglades mud.
I drove in and out of gloominess, but it wasn't the blackness of Everglades night yet. I was glad I didn't linger longer than I did in Tampa. I thought about nineteenth century settlers, hacking homesteads out of mangrove swamps.
The Everglades portion ends rather suddenly, as 75 joins a tangle of highways around the Ft. Lauderdale metro region. I immediately missed the peace of the rainy, relatively deserted strip of interstate across the Everglades.
I'd like another few days in my quiet hotel room to process all of this conference. But that's not the kind of life I have right now. I was lucky to get the professional development time off that I did, but now I am needed back at work, back at church, back at home.
It's good to be needed.
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