On the day I was ordained a priest I was running late. I needed to get to the Cathedral in downtown Birmingham and I was leaving my parent’s house at rush hour. My parents only live 10 minutes from downtown on a good traffic day and I had left with not a minute to spare.
There are several directions that I could have gone and I chose the one with the greatest time benefit, but also the greatest time risk if something went wrong. The specifics of this route are important so let me explain. To merge onto the Red Mountain Expressway at 21st Ave South you must accelerate to 80 miles an hour in about 100 yards and then, with no merging lane, swerve your car into a break in traffic which is also going 80 miles an hour. There is no room for error. If you are not going fast enough, or you misjudge the traffic, you could sit for 5-10 minutes waiting at the top of the ramp.
When I started up the ramp I was turning on the afterburners in my Volkswagon Jetta, and just as I reached the top, that crucial point of no return, there was a car stopped. Obviously this person had miscalculated their speed or the traffic, but either way they were an idiot and I proceeded to tell them this by blowing the horn, waving my hands wildly in the air and calling them many creative names. As I drove past, I looked over at the driver and mouthed the words “You f*cking idiot”.
Time slowed down at this point because I remember the next 30 seconds as clearly as I remember anything in my life. As I passed this poor man on the left, on the onramp and as I was cursing him, I looked over and he looked straight at me, and his mouth was hanging open and he pointed back towards the oncoming traffic. Just as I pulled onto the expressway I looked in my rearview mirror and saw the ambulance that he had stopped for. Adding to my horror and embarrassment, I remembered that we had been asked to wear our clerical collars to the ordination and I had just cursed another driver and cut off an ambulance in a collar, on the way to my ordination. All I can say is that I am happy the confession was part of the service.