Monday, February 03, 2003

Thursday night I was assigned the task of driving to the airport in Sioux Falls to pick up a job candidate arriving to do an on-campus interview for one of our tenure-track openings. On the one hand, it's nice to think that one's colleagues and job search committee members view one as being the sort of person who can be entrusted to pick up a job candidate from the airport without major or minor incident . . . perhaps one is not as much of a Fuck Up as one is occasionally prone to think oneself after all. But then the Ordeal begins. First there is the paperwork which must be filled out in order to requisition a University vehicle, requiring the submission of a valid driver's license, vaccination record, blood work, and urine sample. (Okay, I'm grossly exaggerating about all but the driver's license, but I'm sure that if our departmental secretary had her way, I would have to submit a vaccination record, blood work, and urine sample. The last time I attended a conference she made me submit my name badge for Christ's sake . . . as if the conference registration, hotel receipt, and the fact that I was giving a reading were insufficient evidence to warrant departmental reimbursement. Plus, then there's the inevitable discussion in which she proceeds to grill me as to why I still have an Ohio driver's license as opposed to a South Dakota driver's license in a rather invasive and bossy manner, when I really don't see how it could possibly be any of her business.)

And while yes, it would undoubtedly be much easier for me to have picked up the job candidate in my own vehicle, there are problems with that scenario. At first, there was a bunch of interdepartmental joking about how maybe it could be a Test of Fortitude for the job candidate to be forced to ride on the interstate for an hour in high winds (for there are always high winds on the interstate in South Dakota, particularly between Vermillion and Sioux Falls) in my Jeep Wrangler. But that just seemed a little cruel. Not only would the candidate be forced to contend with a Dyke and her Jeep, the job candidate would have to yell for an entire hour, thereby possibly having no voice for the next day's interview, in order to be heard above the howling winds because even with a hard top, the Jeep Wrangler is not a quiet ride on the interstate. Add to that the fact that when it is extremely windy, one tends to feel precariously buffeted when ensconced in a Jeep Wrangler . . . particularly when large trucks go by. Add to that the fact that when it is extremely windy and the roads are not good, there is sometimes a slight tendency to fishtail a bit, even with the 4-wheel drive. Nor does it have air bags. It just didn’t seem like a very good idea to kill off the job candidate before the job candidate even had a chance to get to campus. Hence the University vehicle.

Here comes the part in which I become Unspeakably Lame. There are two airports in the vicinity: one in Sioux Falls and one in Sioux City. I always fly out of the Sioux City airport myself because it’s a half-hour closer, and I also have frequent flyer miles through Northwest Airlines. As a result, I’d never been to the Sioux Falls Airport before. How hard could it be, I thought rather smugly to myself? Sioux Falls isn’t very big, after all. So I printed off a Yahoo map off the internet, promptly decided that it was a long route that involved a tedious drive down a major street in the middle of Sioux Falls, and after a brief consultation with another colleague decided that I was going to wing it with an alternate route. (Perhaps I should mention, at this point, that I am somewhat Directionally Dyslexic, and really have no business whatsoever “winging it” in any way, shape, or form, when it comes to getting from Point A to Point B. I am definitely one of those who should Stick to the Damn Directions.) I suppose all of this would have gone much more smoothly if the candidate hadn’t been arriving at 11:00 p.m. at night. (Perhaps I should also mention, at this point, that my night vision is absolutely, mortifyingly atrocious?)

So I head off for Sioux Falls in this strange and unfamiliar University vehicle that does annoying things like repeatedly making bing bing bing sounds when it feels that I’ve had the turn signal on for too long. Plus, I’m constantly reaching over for the gear shift because, quite frankly, it is my belief that one really isn’t driving unless one is driving stick. I arrive at Sioux Falls without incident, although a bit of icy rain is starting to come down. I take the exit ramp suggested by my colleague, only to emerge into Roadwork Hell. Orange barrels, bypasses, blocked off accesses. I try to navigate my way through several times, only to become hopelessly tangled up and eventually find myself off driving in The Hinterlands. The Boondocks. The liminal edges of Bum Fuck South Dakota. During all of this I keep missing turn offs due to aforementioned sucky nighttime vision, and keep having to Back Up, Rinse, and Repeat. The one thing I can say is that you can actually get away with these sorts of driving shenanigans in South Dakota . . . unlike Columbus, Ohio, where I used to live, where everyone gives you the finger while verbally reaming you a new asshole, if not just taking out a gun and shooting you outright.

Thirty minutes later I am forced to concede that this is not working and so I decide to find my way back to the interstate, and retrace my route back to where I can pick up the Yahoo map directions. And it’s not as if I can pull over and ask for directions, because I’ve just realized that I’ve turned into my father and would rather drive into the middle of the next adjacent state rather than pull over and ask for directions . . . even while my mother sits next to him with a lap full of maps and a magnifying glass, fuming, and occasionally exploding with exclamations of “What’s matter with you? I told you turn there but you don’t listen, do you? Yo-ne!? So stupid!” Although I’m thankful that my mother isn’t in the passenger seat berating me at this moment, I do have to admit that she’s a Crack Navigator . . . the problem is that my father always insists on driving way too slowly, and is therefore never able to get in the correct exit lane in time to make the turn.

So I wend my way back to the interstate, and I’m going to retrace my route back to the exit for the outer belt, etc. when all of a sudden I see an exit sign for the Sioux Falls airport. Interesting. Apparently there’s a sign if you’re approaching from the butt-end, but no sign if you’re approaching from the anterior. (Well . . . not one that I saw, at any rate. Or maybe my colleague gave me the wrong exit number and I never actually got to it. I dunno.) So I exit, and I dutifully follow the airplane signs. The problem is that the signs stop after a certain point. So there’s more aimless driving around, and blindly Backing Up, Rinsing, and Repeating. At one point, I’m whimsically spinning cookies in the CitiBank parking lot. I know I'm close, though . . . I can see planes in the sky. After exiting the CitiBank parking lot I finally see another sign for the airport (once again, the sign was not there when I was heading in the opposite direction, and it occurs to me that I’m problematically approaching the airport from the posterior or ass end).

All I can say is that it’s a good thing that I left an hour earlier than necessary, just in case. I’m not exactly sure how I got to the airport, but I finally got there . . . with just a few minutes to spare before the job candidate’s plane arrived. I hurriedly park the car in short-term parking, and hustle into the airport . . . by this time the icy sleet has frozen up, and the airport parking lot is dangerously slick.

I meet and gree the candidate who is, thankfully, a very amiable sort, and after baggage is claimed, we head out to the parking lot. All of a sudden I realize that I have no idea which car is mine. Other than it’s blue-ish, and some sort of mid-size sedan. The parking lot is so slick that we’re carefully dragging our feet over the ice, and I head (with fake confidence and nonchalance) toward a blue-ish mid-size sedan that appears to be approximately where I think I’ve parked the car. I try the electronic de-locker thingy. I try it several times.

“Um . . . I’m sorry,” I apologize. “This doesn’t appear to be the right car. I’m driving a University vehicle. It’s not mine,” I add, just so he doesn’t think that I’m the Biggest Moron he's ever encountered. Ever.

So, less confidently, I approach another blue-ish mid-size sedan a few cars down and attempt to use the electronic de-locker thingy again. There’s an answering flash from within, which I find quite promising, but after repeated clicking and door rattling, and anxious peering into windows while the job candidate stands by, I realize that this is also not my car.

“Um . . . well . . . maybe it’s this one over here,” I suggest. Which it actually is. But at this point it’s already too late. The job candidate, who is not getting any younger, and who has an unenviably full day of interviewing the next day (for anyone unfamiliar with the on-campus job interview, just think Bataan Death March) is undoubtedly thinking something along the lines of, Holy Mother of God . . . I can’t believe they actually sent The Poet to come and get me. It’ll be dawn before I get to the Super 8, if and when I actually make it to the Super 8.

The job candidate was a remarkably Good Egg about it, though, all things considered, and was eventually safely delivered to the Super 8 . . . where he was undoubtedly, once ensconced in his room, completely taken aback by the decor therein . . . which can only be described as Early American Bordello. (We usually use the Comfort Inn for University guests. But apparently it’s flooded. Don’t ask.)

I suppose it could have turned out worse. But it’s not over yet, you realize. There will be the Subsequent De-Briefing and Concomitant Interrogation regarding the additional hour’s worth of mileage on the University vehicle. If asked (and believe me, I will be asked), I plan on telling the departmental secretary that I took a side detour and went to the gay bar, got drunk, picked up delightfully loose womyn, and went on a joyride. Whee!
Posted by Artichoke Heart | 2:03 AM |
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Books by Artichoke Heart
Beyond Heart Mountain
Year of the Snake

Poems by Artichoke Heart
Songs for a Rainy Season
Toothpick Warriors
Snake Wife
Happy Hour
Girl With A Bowl On Her Head

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