Columbus, Mississippi (Part One)

This post makes more sense after reading A Fond Look Back at the Welty Symposium post first. Then Part Two after this Part One. If you're indulging me, that is. :)

It’s true what they say. You can’t go home again.

Most of the drive here was beautiful! The leaves in the mountains of Kentucky, especially. Not quite at peak, but enough for my foliage fix. With the good, comes the bad. I had to drive through Alabama this time. Alabama is not my favorite state in the union. In fact, I don't think they realize they actually ARE part of the union. Being raised in Georgia, I'm obligated to live my life according to the unwritten state law that requires participation in at least ten Alabama jokes every year. Despite moving away from Georgia eight years ago, I have yet to have a problem meeting quota.

So, I was driving toward the Alabama/Mississippi state line on Highway 82 when I came upon an unexpected sign: TOLL AHEAD. It made no sense. I was in the middle of nowhere. There were signs about Tuscaloosa, but I never saw any signs of it. When I reached the booth (of course there were no exact change lanes), I asked, “Collecting for what?” 

She opened her mouth, as if she might speak, but let out what can only be likened to a monkey giggle.

I repeated (because it’s kind of fun and you just can’t help yourself), “Seriously, where do the funds go?” She said she didn’t know. I’d like to think she went home and looked it up or made a mental note to ask a co-worker, but <imagine sound of me snorting> the likelihood of that is as remote as she was.

Anyway, the closer I got to Columbus, the fewer cars I saw, even though it was prime 5 o'clock traffic time. I counted two cars and NO trucks in my rear-view mirror when I made the Military Road exit.

But this morning, from 5am to 7am??? All I have heard is truck after truck after truck after truck. At times, it sounds like they’re coming in the room. How can that be? Maybe they’re all heading further west, where I wouldn’t have seen them driving into town? It makes sense, because East is Alabama, after all, and nobody in their right mind would purposefully head in that direction.

There is also a critical gas station/convenience store next door to the hotel. So, I hear lots of air brakes (isn’t that right?) followed by backup beeps followed sometimes by idling or sometimes full-blown re-start-ups.

I keep telling myself to be thankful for the trucks in this world. They bring us stuff. Apparently, Columbus needs lots of stuff or has lots of stuff that needs to be taken to other people first thing in the morning.

But, it’s all trivial and laughable, really. Austin is safe and had a good report from the doctor yesterday, and, despite renting a hearse, I must have driven in-between all the terrible storms yesterday.

And at last night’s opening ceremonies, Ellen Douglas read from her books and closed by saying, “Thank ya’ll for being so proud of me.”

That was worth the 5am wake-up call. That, and there’s a Waffle House (the real kind, not the kind north of the MD line) down the road.