The one tonight was in the city, about a 40 km drive, at 7:00 pm. Traffic was awful, even though it was mostly into the city on a Friday night, rather than out of the city. I planned to allow an hour for what Google maps said was a 40-minute drive. I left a few minutes late, then realized on the way down that there was a baseball game starting at 7:35. I hit mid-town—thinking I had just enough time to arrive as the meeting began—and started back out the other side. Then traffic really slowed down.
Parking was non-trivial. I drove around the block in widening circles with looking for a parking space. Finally, on my second circuit, just as I passed a big blue tour bus (it looked sorta like this, but without the side windows), I found one. Only two half-blocks away from the meeting too. I arrived 15 minutes into the meeting. Wow, do I hate being late for meetings. It's only happened a few times out of what must be about 3,000 by now.
It was a small meeting—13 people plus me. Loads of people [non-members] wandering in and out of the meeting room. Another of my pet peeves: what do newcomers, trying desperately to stay anonymous, think when all these folks come in and out, in and out? Personally, I don't care who knows I'm there, but I also know a school teacher who lost her job after a [non-alcholic] student saw her in a closed A.A. meeting and let everybody at school know.
After half an hour I had the gist of this topic meeting: resentments and "practicing these principles in all our affairs."
The woman sitting in front of me even shared the resentment she had been developing during the meeting about all the strangers coming and going. So I didn't have to. Turns out that this was unusual for this meeting; a wedding rehearsal had been going on upstairs. After she shared, I raised my hand, apologized for being late, and made a brief announcement inviting everyone to stay for 5 minutes after the meeting to fill out a survey. They all did, though one member joked that now he had a resentment about that.
Here's an interesting fact. I've done a few of these—some in 2004 and the two this year—and the most common question people have is always the same: what's the name of this group? I always get a chuckle out of that.
I gathered from the sharing that I heard during the meeting that there was some good sobriety in the room. After collecting all the surveys, I found myself in conversation with one of the women who struck me as such. She confirmed that about half the group (herself included) had 20 years or more of continuous sobriety. She asked where I had come from. I asked her if she knew the small suburban town I'm from and she said, not only did she know it, but she'd been there.
In fact, her roommate from rehab in 1969 had been from the same town. She couldn't recall her roommate's name, only the first name of her husband: Bruce. Within a minute or two, I had figured out who it was and she confirmed the name when I said it. Jean was one of the first recovering alcoholics I met in A.A. fifteen years ago, likely at my very first meeting. Several of her children, roughly of the same age as I am, are also in recovery. Bruce died a year ago March and Jean a year ago July with—I think—over 30 years of sobriety.
Jean was one of those rare people whom I knew both when she were drinking and in sobriety. There's a great story her daughter-in-law tells of when she was dating her now-husband. Jean passed out at the dinner table and her face plopped right down into the mashed potatoes... and everyone went on as though nothing had happened. From what I know, I don't think anything unusual had happened. This was nothing like the Jean I got to know many years later. She helped a lot of alcoholics.
That in itself is a pretty good story. In fact, I was already planning to post about it as I walked away from the church. I turned the corner a half block up the street and noticed, right next to the big blue tour bus—which was still there—a well-known bar where many decent bands perform, and not just local ones. How ironic, I thought. I'd never been there, though I've often thought about it.
I came home and Googled the bar to see whose big blue tour bus it was. I'm not gonna tell you her name, but I will quote from something I found about her:
You couldn't make this stuff up if you tried. [Her] songs—an aural outpouring of her extreme, intense life—are as dramatic as any movie. And [she] admits that sometimes her life, with ups and downs including tour bus accidents, fighting for the custody of her young sister after the death of their only parent, and record industry fiascos, is more like a horror movie. Through it all, though, this versatile, cool rock chick maintains her humor—sometimes with a little help from a bottle of Maker's Mark. And [her] life-to-date--in all its gutsy glory, uncertainty and down-to-earth vulnerability and power, can be heard in the songs [of] her latest CD...
Sounds like we should save her a seat. The pic above is of her, self-described as doing a morning talk show while drunk. Ha!