Friday, February 8, 2008

I'm a Little Bit Country

Did I say suburban Louisiana, a few posts ago? I was deeply mistaken. The place I flew into was not a city so much as a dense arrangement of strip malls. And whatever lay outside of it was not a collection of suburbs--it was flat, swampy country, dotted with occasional small towns. It was mad rural, yo.


As I was driving up towards Natchitoches (pronounced...well...who the hell knows? But it's nothing like you'd expect), a deer emerged from the woods on the left and ran across four lanes of traffic. Because we were out in the country, and the road was flat and straight for miles, the speed limit was 70 and people's actual speed was...a lot faster. I saw the deer coming and was back far enough to slow down. Amazingly, he made it past the leftmost lanes, but got hit by the driver in the right, who should have had ample time to see him coming. But he didn't. He smashed into the animal at high speed, sending him flying up into the air in a spray of blood and viscera (sorry: just reporting the facts). It was not a pretty sight, nor one I'm likely to forget soon.

The town where I was working with teachers, about twenty miles outside of Natchitoches (prononciation hint: it sounds like considerably fewer syllables than it actually has) had a newish and lovely high school building. But I was warned before I set out to stop at a store en route and buy something for lunch, because there was nothing to eat anywhere near the school. And this turned out to be true. I have no idea where the town was--if, in fact, there was a town. But the school was smack dab in the middle of nothing.

The airport. Ah, the airport. When I returned to fly out, I discovered that rental cars were to be returned in the paid parking lot. In other words, you had to take a ticket and go through the barricade, just as if it were your own car. This made so little sense to me that I actually refused to enter, at first, and circled the airport looking for something more logical. On my second pass, I took the ticket, went into the lot, and dumped the car. I looked around for an attendent of some sort--you know, the kind that exists in every airport rental car place in the world. No such person. So I took my belongings, locked the car, and went into the terminal, figuring I had to drop off my keys at the rental car desk. But there was no one there. Just a sign saying "be back soon"

Soon turned out to be 20 minutes. Okay, I had plenty of time before my flight. So I waited. The girl came back eventually and asked what the mileage was on the car. I told her I didn't know, and she told me that I had to go back out to the parking lot and write it down. "It would have been nice if someone had told me that when I rented the car," I said, as politely as I could. And off I trudged, back to the lot, to read the odometer.

I came back, turned in the keys, and went over to the check-in desk, to get rid of my bag. Once again, no one was there. I waited another 20 minutes. Finally someone emerged and checked me in. I went up to security and found a locked gate. A TSA worker sat nearby, reading a science fiction novel. She said, "We're opening at 6:00. There's nothing going on till then, and, honestly, there's nothing past security, so you might as well stay out here." I looked around. If there was nothing past security, there was an equal amount of nothing on the near side of it. There was some kind of snack stand, but it, too, was gated shut. So I sat and waited. And waited. And waited.

When they finally opened the security gate, I was the only one waiting to go through. It was like I had my own, personal airport. Once I got through, I discovered that there were only three people on my flight. For a long time, it looked like it might just be me.

Rural, people. I mean, I've been to small airports before. My home airport is small. But I've never seen anything like this.

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