2005-04-14 9:43 p.m.

The Healing Love of Carpool

In the last several weeks, I've had some odd rides from the casual carpool. I've heard every morning radio show on the dial (except for Howard Stern; apparently, despite their flagrant disregard for the unspoken rules of casual carpooldom, even the drivers of El Suburb have their limits). I've ridden in beat-up Volvos, Lexuses, SUVs, a construction truck, an electrician's van and a taxi. (The cabbie was running late for work.)

But nothing tops the ride I got the other day.

The car was an ordinary-looking white sedan, and my first warning should have been when I got hit by a blast of perfume getting in. Begging off on a ride because of "fragrance sensitivity" is an acceptable excuse, and if I'd seen it coming I would have taken that excuse.

The next thing I noticed was the tastefully frouey pamphlets and other paraphenalia scattered around the back seat: a brochure for a "homegoing ceremony", a fake flower, a bag with a business card stuffed in the front pocket and a logo printed on the front... for a Baptist church in New Orleans. Uh-oh.

The full-on Jesusness of the car soon became apparent as the generic-sounding R&B song that was on the radio stopped and an announcer told me I was listening to The Light, the "inspiration station" for San Francisco.

I sat in the back seat, feeling distinctly uninspired, and the gospel music swelled. As I morosely watched it start to rain, listening to the praise of Jesus ring in my ears (though not my black little heart), and tried not to sneeze from all the perfume, it occured to me that there was only one more way that this experience could get more unpleasant.

And that's when the sweet little Baptist church lady driving the car started to sing.

Luckily the song ended and the Inspiration Station launched into the day's Bible lesson before the Church Lady could really get into it. I have no doubt that if I'd been in that car ten minutes longer I'd have been listening to a one-woman gospel choir. And as I hurriedly thanked the driver and rocketed out of that car, getting rained on in my rush to work like the dirty sinner that I am, I thought, Thank you Jesus for fresh air. Thank you.


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