February 21, 2007

The grouch giveth

More odds and ends from driving in the USofA:

Started my trip with a rental Pontiac Vibe, comfortable car, high driving position that I like, peculiar shape to the body though. Decent mileage. Drove it pell-mell through VA and NC, then while approaching my NC destination on Sat night, a warning light flickered on on the dash. Small picture of an engine, and "Check" next to it.

What to do? It's late at night, so I figure the best thing is to get it to where I'm going, then deal with things next morning.

So next morning, I call the rental car company to find out what to do. After many infernal menus and some back and forth, it's decided that I should exchange the car at the Asheville airport on Monday morning.

Meanwhile, I also yank out the Vibe's manual from the glovebox and look for what it says about this light. Some dire sounding stuff, but what intrigues me is that the manual indicates that in Canadian models of this car, this warning light comprises only the little pic of the engine. No "Check". Why would that be, I wonder. Does Pontiac believe that Canadians can't read?

I did exchange the car, next morning. Got meself a low-slung Mitsubishi Galant, rather too low. The driving position is like I'm sitting on the floor, with my legs straight out in front of me. But it has clean lines, fat tires, drives well, and if I hit the brakes at more or less any speed, the steering wheel -- and indeed the whole car -- shudders.


Not far from where I write this is a road named "Al Smith's Drive". Already on this trip, I've passed "Way Up Yonder Drive" and "Kiutuestia Road" and "Pas Fini Drive" which I hope has been finished. So "Al Smith's Drive" seems somehow in the scheme of things.

And as I pass it earlier tonight, I see from the corner of my right eye a tiny something on the edge of the road, like a stone, or a clump of leaves. Then the something suddenly spreads wings and takes to the air: of all things, a small owl. And as it flies away, I hear a soft bump. My low-slung Galant speeding through the night has actually hit the bird in flight. I can't see it in the utter darkness. Hope it's OK.


A few hundred yards from there, two properties that have cards stuck in the soil near the road. Longish-looking list on those cards. "The Ten Commandments", they say across the top.

I had been told to expect these signs, but I'm taken aback nevertheless. Why would someone put one up?


Friends who have given me the use of this place sent me detailed directions, ending with "#65 is on the left", then a few lines about exactly where they have hidden the key on their back porch. I copy that down as "#65 is on the right". So when I get here, I see #62 on the right, then no numbers for the next two properties, then the end of the street with #71 in front. I figure one of those two has to be #65, so I drive into the second and park.

There's a Nissan pickup there, so I guess somebody is around. Not my friends, obviously, but maybe somebody doing some work. At any rate, even if this is not the place, perhaps I can ask. So I knock. No answer. Shout. No answer. Walk around to the back porch ... then I see a device that's exactly like the one my friends had told me their key would be hidden in on their back porch, exactly down to the colour.

So I figure, this has to be the place. I swiftly pull off the cover of the device, open it up, something falls off the back ... no keys.

It's some time later that I realize my mistake and do find my way to #65. When I'm eventually in the house, I suddenly sit down under the enormity of what I've just been doing. Here I was, a complete stranger to these parts, without so much as a letter from my friends, rooting around the back-porch furniture of someone's house, knocking things over. Lucky nobody was in, but what if they had been there? Or had returned while I was there doing my rooting?

My friends had said, jokingly, that this is Deliverance country. (It's also Ten Commandments country, clearly). Suddenly, that doesn't seem like much of a joke.


Down the road some distance is a huge sign. It says: "You Are Now Entering the Mission Field. Tell Someone About Jesus Today."

But if that seems a mite stern, especially after noticing the Ten Commandments, it's someone with a sense of humour who puts up signs outside the McCaysville Church of God.

There are two.

One says: "Some people are paid to be good. Some people are good for nothing."

The other says: "The lord loveth a cheerful giver. He also accepteth from a grouch."

Good for the lord.


Anonymous said...

I went to grad school in NC, and reading this piece brought back some memories. It really is a very nice state. Beautiful and green, unlike, the dreary mid-west. The weather's great and I'll tell you after 6 months of the the midwest, I can't wait to soak in some of that southern sun and charm. The people down there are really pleasant. There are a few nuts, but the average joe/jane are very kind and very warm. I say it has the best of both the north and the south. Southern Hospitality combined with a good deal of Northern efficiency.

Boy! Do I miss that state. Hope you had fun driving through.

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Nice road ruminations, sorr. One admires muchly.


Anonymous said...

Pontiac believes that it should follow the law. Anything that goes into Candada has to have both French and English--too many words to put next to the picture of the engine. Too bad anon. thinks we Americans are too dumb; he should be forced to endure a lifetime of country music.