Well, I could continue to regale you two (Ed and Aunt Debbie) with more vignettes from the road (how pretty Clifton is or the majestic look of the town square when driving into Meridian from the east with the courthouse spire rising like a gingerbread house in front of hills) but I think today was much more interesting than that.
I knew it wasn’t going to be my day when I spilled my Diet Coke all over my jeans when I was less than 15 miles away from my first stop. Thank goodness that stop was at an Allsup’s in Boyd, so I figured that I’d fit right in. And I was especially thankful that the spill was nowhere near my crotch, so as to eliminate any speculation that my adult diapers were malfunctioning. I got out of my seat and headed to the back of the van to gather all my materials, just continuing my normal ritual. I closed the back doors and hit the lock button on my keychain… and nothing happened. I tried several more times to no avail, so I gave up. I went back to the driver’s side door, opened it, and hit the inside lock button. All secure now.
Once inside, I started to unhook the old terminal and I guess I leaned on the counter in just the right way to hit the “panic” button on the keychain in my pocket. So my big honking van became a big HONKING van. Surprised that the remote was working, I took it out of my pocket to disarm it. Obviously, nothing happened. I pressed the button over and over with no results. I walked outside and tried but still nothing worked. I took out my key and manually unlocked the door, hoping that would stop the honking, but it didn’t.
Finally, getting desperate, I put the key in the ignition and started up the van. And that worked. I shut off the engine, closed the door, and pressed the “lock” button. No dice. So I opened the door again, hit the inside lock button, and went back inside to finish my job. All the while, I was wondering just what kind of omen this was for my day.
I would soon find out.
My next stop was at a ministry and, silly me, I thought that would be easy. No lottery machines and phone lines to contend with, probably well-maintained, etc. Plus, it was in a nearby small town. Good, friendly, helpful people was what I imagined. What I didn’t expect was a big, sprawling compound complete with freaking airplane hangars. But that is what I got.
I drove around the compound looking for the name of the “business” on my work order, but I came up with a big bag of nothing. I finally spotted two women chatting in a parking lot, so I stopped and asked them for help. They seemed bewildered. Food stamps were accepted there? They directed me to the administration building which appeared to have absolutely no convenient parking. Crud.
I made a long walk into the building and was greeted by imposing architecture and a low-talker at the desk. She, too, seemed confused about my arrival. Hushed phone calls ensued, and eventually I was asked to have a seat to wait for someone. “Would you like some cold water while you wait?” Afraid that the cold water there would burn holes in my soul, exposing me as a heathen, I declined. I sat on a comfy sofa and counted my blessings – all five of them. Then I got bored.
Finally, I was called back up to the desk and handed a phone. Evidently, the woman in charge of the food stamp program was on vacation and people were frantically trying to figure out what to do. I imagined them in seedy backrooms, stubbing out cigars (yes, the women, too) while intoning “The State is here! The State is here! Hide the child laborers and the bags of money from the elderly!” To quote the great Bono, “Well, the God I believe in isn’t short of cash, mister.”
It turned out that my imagination probably wasn’t far from the truth.
The woman on the phone gave me directions to her building which was located at a four-way stop sign. Yes – the compound had actual roads with stop signs. (“Do not veer off of the grounds,” I was warned. Seriously.) She told me to enter through the double doors, and I did, and I saw nothing but empty cubicles. I stuck my hands in my pockets and waited, all the while looking at an imposing office to my right with a big oak door that was closed and apparently soundproof. Later, I kicked myself for not scratching my nuts while waiting for someone to come out and greet me. Just for the heck of it.
When that oak door did open, people flew out of the office on a mission (no pun intended). They were going from cubicle to cubicle, opening drawers and cabinets, looking for a machine that they had no idea existed, let alone what it looked like. Then one woman took control. She invited me into a private office while she was on the phone. Then the phone went to speaker mode and I found myself talking to the woman who was directly under the food stamp woman who was on vacation.
Informed that the machine I was there to replace was actually at someone’s home, I was ready to give up. Grant Lee Buffalo’s tune “Lone Star Song” started reverberating in my head. (For those of you unfamiliar with it, the song is about the Koresh compound in Waco. Good stuff.) I was finally able to reschedule for next Tuesday. At first we agreed upon 9am, but that changed when the woman behind the desk noted that “prayer ends around 9am and we need time to get back here”. So 9:30 it is.
Man, I dread it.
Nothing against the deeply religious, but when churches get that big, I start to wonder about motivation.
When I walked back to the van, I made sure to make a path across the well-manicured grass. After all, God put it there for a reason.