By Dr. Debra Peppers
Her name is “Roada.” My husband thought he was so clever when he nicknamed the other woman in his life. She has traveled with him far more regularly than I have in the past couple of years.
He absolutely loves her, coddles her and pampers her every place she goes with him. She has been in all 50 states and several foreign countries, and can change her accent, tone, and even gender at a moment’s notice. He praises her and says how much he loves her in front of our friends and family – and of course me, all the time.
Now because I travel so much with my speaking career, when I am unable to find my way in the dark, cruel world alone, he has the nerve to send her alone with me to be my permanent road companion and guide. He says her voice is more soothing and sexier than mine. He says that no matter how erratic his driving, she never raises her voice. I have never been technically astute, but I detest our GPS “Roada” even more than I do “Ted Turner” – our multi-programmable DVD/Dish/VCR/Internet changer for our big flat screen TV “Telle.”
Staying at a beautiful golf and fishing Resort where I was recently speaking, (how convenient that my husband found this lodging only 15 miles from where I was to speak the next morning) we set the alarm for 6 AM. He often travels with me and helps set up the power point and microphones for my presentations, but the lure of the lake was too intense that morning and , “After all,” he said with a smile, “You are only 15 minutes away, and Roada will lead you every inch.
Scheduled to speak at 8:30, we had a leisurely breakfast while we reviewed the map and he set Roada for me. My first inclination was to “accidentally” leave Roada in the Club House where we were eating. But of course Bud carefully carried her to the car, unwound her cord, and gently pushed her buttons. As I pulled out of the lodge I heard him yelling, “In case of any discrepancy on the map, listen to Roada. No matter what, do what SHE says!”
I had no sooner left the resort entrance when the road sign and the MapQuest map both said to turn right. But Roada in her calm, low, sultry voice said, “Keep straight ahead.” Still ringing in my ears was my husband’s warning, “If there is any discrepancy, listen to Roada.”
The road straight ahead was a narrow blacktop, but if it was a shortcut that would cut off a few miles, then of course, my husband – and Roada - know best. WRONG! Driving 55 miles per hour as I could have done on the other road, I suddenly slowed to 40 or so when the road turned to gravel. I come from a rural community in Pike County where we drove blacktop and gravel roads to our wonderful country school of Clopton, near Clarksville, MO. So I still wasn’t alarmed. But by the time the gravel road had turned to dirt and I found myself driving over two wooden planks to get from one side of the little creek to the other, I realized it was too late to turn around. Since I had now slowed to 10 miles per hour, and it was already 8:15, I prayed and drove on – even though the dirt road ended. I was now following in the grassy tracks of where a field truck, combine or tractor may have driven recently, with rows of corn on both sides; but I was mostly driving by faith and constant prayer.
By 8:30, when I should have already been seated next to the superintendent of the school where I was the opening keynote speaker, I am now creating my own road by following the last in a series of thousands of rows of corn. I’m not afraid of cows so I ignored them as long as they stayed out of the path I was creating. Otherwise, I hoisted myself up through the moon roof of my car and sternly bellowed, “Moooooove!”
Suddenly the beautiful, melodic, sexy voice of Roada said, “Turn right in one mile.” Surely I could follow the corn and cows for one mile without dying. At 10 miles per hour, surely I could get to a paved road in a few minutes. Then came the intersecting road and I turned right…right into a farmer’s garden that somehow turned into a dirt road, that turned into a semi-paved road, that led me straight through the football field of the school where I was speaking. As I was thanking God and ripping Roada from the plug, I was greeted by a very nice custodian who said, “Hey lady! No one’s supposed to drive on the football field!” I smiled and said, “Sir you are so right. And I promise I will not do it again!”
As I bustled into the back of the auditorium, suddenly pretending to be cool, calm and collected, the anxious Superintendent greeted me with, “Well, I see our guest speaker has finally arrived. Dr. Peppers come on down. Quickly setting up my PowerPoint, I suddenly changed my introductory remarks with, “How many of you have a GPS? How many of you have a spouse who insists you use it? I used to have both.”
Debra Peppers, a professional speaker for 25 years, was one of only five inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame upon her retirement from Lindbergh High School. A member of the National Speakers Association, she has traveled to all 50 states and 60 countries teaching others that if she can go from being a 250-pound high school dropout, to Teacher of the Year there is hope for every child and adult. For info, visit www.pepperseed.org