Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Pictures I don't have from the Research I didn't do

Trying to stay afloat in Mississippi these days seems to be constantly eluding my ability to tread water: both literally and figuratively. I have some research scheduled in various communities this summer, and have been excited about the discovery of new places here, and some new pictures.

Today, I was supposed to be in Ripley, and then make a quick run over to Corinth to leave a research book for a student. I left at noon, but by the time I got the books loaded, went to the bank, and reached the cut-off to the road, the sky opened up and it began to pour. The battery died on my car yesterday and I was in Rand's truck...he was on the motorcycle. I called him to see if he wanted a ride back to work so he did not have wet jeans all afternoon.

By the time I turned around, picked him up and got him to work, and headed out again, it was an hour later. That still left me plenty of time...if I had not gotten lost on the way. Mississippi is just miles and miles of rural land in this part of the state, with tiny little towns and communities here and there, all connected in a maze of two lane roads and endless kudzu. Of course, only after I arrived back home this evening did Rand mentioned I should have taken the GPS.

After it taking me an hour longer than it should have, I was now out of time to get the book to the student and get back in time to pick up Randy, so I skipped the research--the primary reason for the trip--and called the student. She was back in the town through which I had just driven 20 minutes earlier, on her way to the town in which I live. Ya just gotta love it. She gave me directions to the office where she was to have been, and asked me to leave the book with a colleague of hers.

On my way into the office, I met the local sheriff, overseeing the yard work with the inmate crew. Once inside, the receptionist window informed me the office I needed was "at the other window." I went to the other window, but there was no one at it; I waited. Finally, just as I was about to go back to the other "other window" I noticed a small sign at the bottom of the window. Please have ID ready when you ring the bell.

I'm sorry, but what bell? I looked all around the window for a buzzer or bell. All over the wall. Under the shelf. Finally, I notice an old-fashioned bell like one used to see on a hotel check-in...inside the window. I slid open the window, and no, I did not have my ID out, and tapped the bell. Finally, a woman came to the window and took the book--which I had thankfully pre-labeled with the student's name--and said she would see that it got to her. I thanked her, hoping that it would.

I left, and found myself wondering if it took me that long as educated as I am, and somewhat familiar with the concept of social service offices, would it have been that difficult for a client who may not have even finished high school? Or, perhaps, she might be more adept at navigating the system than someone who expected a person to be at that window who wanted to help me--you know, like when you go to Walgreen's to pick up your prescription or to Dairy Queen to order your ice cream.

I pulled out my iPhone once back in the car and in between stopping at traffic signals, put the map app on to figure out how to get home a shorter way. Even at that, I knew I would never make it by 5. Not long after, J called to see if I was "dead on the side of the road" and told me my car had started earlier, so I had a tentative back up to get Rand. There were any number of interesting little communities through which I passed--intermittently with mounds and hills and forests and gullies of kudzu--but I did not stop for pictures. It was also intermittently still pouring now and then and I was hoping to miraculously make it back by 5. At a quarter of, I gave up that pipe dream and called J to go ahead and pick up his dad. He actually was quite cheerful about it.

I made it home only 30 minutes later, but only because I did not quite follow the speed limits. Mississippi also has a rather unique system of speed limits, and there seems to be little discernible reason for why a limit suddenly drops to 45 from 65, for example. It just does; I just tried to keep it at a steady gallop today, unless it was in one of those pouring rain episodes.

Tomorrow, I get to do it all over again, only south and west instead of north and east. I plan on an earlier start, and hope to get the research, the pictures, and the books to the student. For sure, it better not rain so Rand can use the motorcycle.

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