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Feature/ProfileOn the Road with Mike MurchisonReader Contributions

There is more than one kind of shortage making life painful for people in 2021

It wasn’t the nicest motel. Photo: Mike Murchison

It’s ironic that my last piece of writing was on the failing supply chain network, and how it has inconvenienced so many businesses and consumers. The interrupted flow of goods has caused backlogs at the ports, warehouses and shortages on the shelves.

I spent a week broke down. I got towed twice, to different truck dealers, to improve chances of getting in for repair. The first facility was backed up a week and a half, with jobs on the go that were still awaiting parts, not to mention technicians.

So, to a motel in Pasco Washington, I went.

With the truck in the nearby Peterbilt dealership, I needed a place to stay. With no means of, transportation I picked the closes place. Across the 4 lanes of highway 395. A two mile walk from the dealership. It was there where the dealer rep dropped me off, and the adventure began.

It wasn’t the nicest motel. Somewhat rundown, questionable characters lurking around. Cigarette butts everywhere and vehicles came and went all hours of the night.

Walking up to my room in the second, that’s when I saw her. She had the “suite” beside me. I found out later she was my age, and her name was Shauna.

Her arms, legs, cheeks and forehead were covered in green, orange and yellow tattoos depicting Asian symbols of writing.

She said “Hi” as I was trying to get the door to my room open with the magnetic key card. That’s when the story of “Itchiban” came to be told. “Itchiban” was her husband who lived in Viet Nam, and was going to rise and save America from heroin.

 Shauna then pointed across the parking lot to what she called the “big heroin ball” on the roof of the gas station. It was actually the logo for the ‘76 chain of gas stations.

In a defiant snap of anger Shauna clenched her fist and exclaimed “I’m takin’ that mother down!”

 I knew she was a user; opioids were her choice. Although, meth and heroin were her preferred, she later confessed.

 I retired to my room. It was hot shower time; but, no such luck.

The water was barely warm at best. I called the “front desk” which was nothing more than a hole in the side of the wall at the gas station.

Ten minutes later the “maintenance man” showed up. Here again, another victim of the dark side of drugs. Tattoos everywhere. Clothes hanging off a skeleton of a body. Sunken eyes, pin in the nose and that look: that look in the eyes, that reflected a hundred bouts with his own demons. Black as coal but glaring with anger and frustration for being trapped in such a vicious pattern.

In his lopsided posture, with slurred speech, he explained that by turning the sink faucet on and flushing the toilet…. I would get hot water. It worked. I said “Thank you.” He turned and disappeared out of sight.

At some point in the afternoon, Shauna knocked on my door. She stood there in her bent posture, in a black cowboy hat that had seen some miles. She was holding a paper cup of tea and some deep fried…. fish balls.

Stranded by supply chain failures. Photo: Mike Murchison

“I made these for you!” she exclaimed. I declined; I wasn’t very hungry. But took them and laid them on the desk in my room.

I went turned back to the door and she extended her hand. Hesitant, I slipped my hand into hers to shake it.

 It was the first time I got to look into her eyes. Somewhere in there, way down deep, somebody was home. Way down past the hits, the injections, and the damage life had heaped upon her. The reasons or fault didn’t matter: somebody was in there trying to find her way back.

That night Shauna took a hit of something and off she went.

It started slow. Talking to herself. Arguing with herself. Grunting. A lot of profanity. The worst was the constant sound on the wall. Sounded like she was running her fingernails back and forth against her side of the half-inch drywall that separated the rooms.

The talking would die down, then start up again 20 minutes later. On and on it went.

At one point, around 2am, I got dressed, stepped out into the night and knocked on her door. Her room fell silent. She opened the door.

She looked like hell. Her eyes were on fire. Her face full of anger.

I asked one simple question: “Do you want to talk awhile?”

She looked at me sideways then stepped out onto the balcony.

“You okay?” I asked. “Did you take something?”

“I’m fine.”

She twitched, coughed, grunted, giggled and groaned.

“I’ll be back,” I said.

I returned with two cups of coffee. She lit up a smoke and once again laid it on about the heroin ball on the roof of the gas station.

“You’re gonna be fine. Just fine,” she said to me.

I asked her if she practiced any faith. Did she believe in Jesus? When I mentioned that, she immediately extended both her middle fingers in a vertical direction and glared at me. Oh, if looks could kill.

 I thought of all the people I know, family, friends. How they and I have been fortunate enough not to fall into that black abyss of such brutal drug addictions and a life of what might have been that; for Shauna, became what it is.

Here I was 600 miles from home. Standing on the balcony of a run-down motel helping a woman named Shauna ride out this latest dosage.

Why didn’t I walk away? Find another motel? Call the cops?

Maybe I stayed to learn that there really is a supply chain shortage. Not so much in consumer goods, but in consumer compassion.

 We may freely have the supply from our families and circle of friends. Yet out there in the big world where things get “real,” there surely is a shortage.

It’s too ugly. Too scary.

I wrote a song called “One More Chance.” The chorus goes like this:

“Give us one more chance/ to get it right this time/

Give us one more chance to walk underneath the stars/

By the grace of God we’ll walk that line/

Give us one more chance to be better than we are.”

I’m sure that in her quiet moments, when the drugs aren’t raging in her bloodstream and her brain isn’t on fire, Shauna, and like thousands of others like her, only want just that:

One more chance.

Click here to hear a preview of Mike Murchison’s song “One More Chance,” shared with special permission.