Wednesday, April 25, 2012

But I can't Tell You...

It should have been easy. But of course, you know it wasn’t, or I wouldn’t bother to be blogging about it.

It’s never a good sign when you walk into the local gas station, ask for help locating ______ Street, and everybody laughs at you. Not just the two behind the counter. Both the customers waiting to pay as well. Locals, apparently, and in on the joke. Whatever is was.

By that time, I already knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I had thought differently earlier that day, noting how plainly and simply the intersections to Hwy. 60 between St. James and Windom were marked. The ones which weren’t county roads were 770th Ave, 760th Ave, and so on, counting down by tens about every mile or so. The few homes which had driveways accessed from the highway had those ever-handy fire number signs, such as 77805, 68230. They counted down right along with the cross streets. Perfectly logical. Perfectly in order. Oh, not every mile had an intersection, and to be honest they were a bit more than exactly every mile, since the highway headed a bit south along with west, so it took a bit longer in road miles than map miles.

Still, perfectly logical. I was looking for 500th Ave, and based on all the (literal) signs, it should be just about at Windom, right where the address claimed to be. Should be easy, right?  Just turn at 500th, and go till my house numbers showed up on a fire sign next to the correct driveway. I’ve done it many a time before.

In due time I came to 500th Ave and turned south onto it. Only a gravel road, but hey, it’s rural out here. I drove about a mile before it connected with a paved road. Not one dwelling was located along its length, so I had no idea where my address numbers should line up. Did I need to go north or south? And though the paved road had no sign with a name, I checked it out a bit before determining that it was numbered east-west, and apparently not going anywhere near where I needed to go. Figures. It just couldn’t have been that easy.

Time for my usual plan A: hit a local gas station and ask for directions or a map, even a phone book. So on into town. Found a Super America. Asked. Got laughed at.

That’s when they started asking me questions: where on 500th did I need to go? I had address numbers and a name. I was reluctant to give out more information than absolutely necessary. This was a critical medical delivery, bringing parts for a lifesaving machine to replace ones delivered earlier which were the wrong ones. That’s why somebody was paying me to drive a box ASAP almost 150 miles at the end of the day. But that was nobody’s business.

They wondered aloud if it wasn’t such-and-such a development out where somebody else that everybody in the store knew lived. That was really hard to find, even after being there a time or two. Maybe the person in the back of the store knew more. Off my cashier trotted to gain more information. Or try.

Over a full minute later she returned with a phone book in hand, no information for me, but did anybody remember some lady’s married last name so they could look her up, see if it was a close-by address, and call her and ask for directions?


By then I asked for the phone book, found my party, and called. Got the wife of the patient. Introduced myself and my errand, and starting from where I was, how did I get to her place?

Glad as she was to be getting the delivery, she couldn’t tell me how to get there. Now that was a first for me. Usually folks can give even terrible directions, including such gems as, “turn left where Olson’s red barn used to be.” Like I’d know. But, no, she just couldn’t figure out how to tell me. I began to get the full extent of why my initial query met with such laughter.

She did, however, have a solution. How about if I stayed where I was and she drove to me? It would fit in her car, right? Yep, 1’ x1’ x2’, about 24 lbs. No problem. She was only 3 miles away, and would be “right there”. About ten minutes later I was wondering if she could find the place herself, nevermind giving directions. But she eventually arrived, I transferred the box, and secured a few signatures.

As I was getting ready to head home, it now being 6:30 PM and over 200 miles to home, I noticed the lady who’d been trying to help me earlier, now engaging the (my) customer in a discussion of how to get out there. Were they any where near where  the ______s lived? She'd never heard of them. Was it past ____ Bridge? Apparently it was, and they were chatting cozily as I drove off. Maybe the clerk can assist the next confused delivery person in locating the neighborhood.

Maybe at least they won't laugh.

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