I was driving in my truck, ( I like the way that sounds…”drivin’ in ma truck, with my arm out the winda…”) and it was a day like any other day. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and the sky was as bright blue as a cobalt crystal ball. As I was sitting at a stop light, of course, one of the the BEST songs in TOP FORTY MOTOWN history comes on my radio.
If you are like me and one of your favorite songs comes on the radio, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to not sing it out loud. You sing it out loud because that is the way God intended it to be! Of course, you crank it up, because if it is one of YOUR favorite songs, the world will want to hear it too…right? On the radio I heard the song begin and up I cranked it.
L.A. Proved too much for the man;
(Too much for the man, he couldn’t make it)
So he’s leavin’ the life he’s come to know, ooh
(He said he’s goin’)
He said he’s goin’ back to find
(Goin’ back to find)
Ooh ooh ooh, what’s left of his world
The world he left behind
Not so long ago
He’s leavin’ (leavin’)
On that midnight train to Georgia
(Leavin’ on the midnight train)
Yeah, said he’s goin’ back
(Goin’ back to find)
To a simpler place in time
(Whenever he takes that ride) oh yes he is
(Guess who’s gonna be right by his side)
And I’ll be with him (I know you will)
On that midnight train to Georgia
(Leavin’ on the midnight train to Georgia)
I’d rather live in his world (live in his world)
Than live without him in mine
(Her world is his, his and hers alone)
Songwriters: James D. Weatherly
Midnight Train To Georgia lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group
If you are a millennial; (and you know I love you!), you got cheated in the music department! I’m sorry, truly. It’s because…well, I’ll just say it out loud, the 60’s and 70’s were the halcyon days of musical diversity! Now, don’t shoot me, I’m just the messenger. Of course, there are the rare exceptions of Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift and , Radiohead, Coldplay and my 90’s pal, Jack Johnson, but even YOU GUYS, when the poll was taken still hold The Beatles as a top 20 favorite.
But when GLADYS KNIGHT comes on the radio, you… by God, turn it up and maybe even salute when she’s singing…you certainly DON’T hum a Gladys Knight song! So, setting the scene for my readers once again, I am at a stop light, in Franklin, Tennessee on that midnight train to Georgia with Gladys and lovin’ it!
As I sat listening to the song, both my front windows were open…oh yeah. The woman in the car on my right first moved her head just a whisper toward my truck. I saw her eyes begin to widen, then her head began to bob up and down and then…her window first cracks and then she opens it up all the way and looks over at me and yells, “Please tell me that’s on the radio!!!” I told her what station and she tuned to it and then SHE cranked it up!
We were both “driver seat dancin’” and this woman made me ashamed of myself…she was not just singin…she was SINGIN’!!!” This girl had some lungs… Her kids in the back seat said, “Mommy that’s loud!’, and like the fine woman she was, she shouted, “Hush up child…that’s Gladys KNIGHT!” Mother’s like that make me proud to be an American. Children, in terms of great R&B music, should be seen and not heard!!!
Thinkin’ this was a “feel good” block party and believing everyone felt the same as my motor neighbor on the right, I looked over at the car on my left. Sure enough, there in the passenger seat of her car, was a woman rockin’ Gladys along with the rest of us Red-Blooded American Gladys lovers! I smiled and began to laugh…she was singing and had rolled down her window. Then, my Happy Place came to a screeching halt.
As I was smiling, in her direction, her husband, (I later discovered it was her boyfriend) thought my joy was more interest in his girlfriend than in the music. And, of course, I get it…there is nothing more threatening to a 25 year old young man than a 61 year old, white, fat man singing a Gladys Knight song in a pick up truck…(it’s just sexy….I can’t help it! LOL!)
He see’s my smile and right there at the stop light he gets out of his car and walks over to my truck window. Now, it’s bumper to bumper and …ain’t nobody movin. He comes up to my window and asks,
“Whatchu smilin’ at Dad?” His top lip pursed tightly and his eyes scowling. His fists were clenched. My driver seat dancing came to a halt…and unfortunately, I had to turn down my radio. It had happened so quickly that I was not sure what was happening. I thought he was asking directions.
Cars behind us were rolling down their windows and, in my side rear view mirror, I see people sticking their heads out the window and one person getting their phone out to take pictures of the impending doom about to take place…pucker factor…10.
In circumstances like these, you don’t make any quick moves…keep the hands on the steering wheel. What came into my mind next was a God thing and as usual, it was right on time. I remembered a teaching I had received, years ago about fighting fires. A man by the name of David Alsobrook had come to my church in Owensboro, Kentucky back in the late 70s and taught on “Moving in the Opposite Spirit”.
He had used the Scriptures
“A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1 and
“A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict,
but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.” Proverbs 15:18.
If you know me, I’m a real lover, and in my past I only got in fights because I was young and stupid. I was never a good fighter anyway…God made me a pretty gentle person but I was as dumb as a bag of hammers when it came to discernment back before I was saved….anyway, I digress.
The teaching was that God has designed His principles to be effective when we move in the exact opposite spirit as the one standing in front of us. If someone is fearful, we can move in faith and it will put a check on the fear. If a person is worried, we move in hope and dispel the worry and bring hope to the person. You don’t fight fire with….fire. You fight fire with water, and the scene in front of me on this bright, sunny day with an angry man at my window was FIRE.
His face was hard, mine softened. The nerves in his mouth were quivering with anger, my face gently smiled and I spoke.
“I’m so sorry I offended you son…it certainly wasn’t my intention.” He didn’t know what to do. Very slowly, I removed my right hand from the steering wheel, I introduced myself and extended my hand toward him to shake his hand. “My name is Doug, and I was just delighted you all were Gladys Knight fans.” My smile broadened…his hand unclenched and his face, looked relieved. He shook my hand. Then he spoke, “a…I thought you was sayin’ something bad to my girl…”
All this time, about 20 seconds had passed. I saw that his girlfriend was reaching out her window pulling at his shirt. “Stop it Randy…Stop!” (I’m thinkin’ Randy had an anger problem and that this was not his first rodeo…) I covered him. “He’s okay…he’s a Gladys Knight fan too!’ I said, He breathed deeply and then chuckled, “Yeah baby, I’m just thankin’ the man for his good taste!” She smiled. I looked at him and said, “No disrespect intended Randy.” He looked at me and said, “sorry man, my bad…my bad.”
This would be the end of the story except that when you fight fire with water, not only does the water put out the fire, but it quenches the REAL thirst that people have. Randy said, “a…thanks man…guess I need to cool out!” I grinned and said, “Gladys Knight makes me crazy too!” he laughed one of those, “Oh thank God I didn’t do something stupid” kind of laughs while shaking his head and getting back into his car. As he entered his car he said, “you cool man…you cool.” As he got into his car, I happened to hear the cars all around me playing “Midnight Train to Georgia” and was grateful I had been surrounded by Gladys and the Pips…as well as my guardian Angel.
After getting home and shampooing my driver’s seat from my encounter with Randy, I reflected on the fact that the outcome of our daily interaction with other people is largely dependent upon our willingness to let God direct our words and actions or whether we will take the wheel and end up in the emergency room of life. I don’t always do the right thing…far from it. But I am convinced that the reason God has given us one mouth and two ears is so we will listen twice as much as we speak.
I’m thinking from now on I’m going to listen to elevator music or maybe the Carpenters…. Ain’t nobody gotten into trouble listening to elevator music or the Carpenters.