Perhaps some of you may remember the mortifying Driving Debacle from a few weeks back, in which I was dispatched in a State Motor Pool Vehicle to pick up an incoming job candidate arriving to interview for a tenure-track position with our department. As you may recall, there were mishaps in direction following, much aimless driving about in The Hinterlands of Bum Fuck South Dakota, a lot of backing up and turning around due to missed turns, concluding with embarrassing adventures in Vehicle Misidentification in the airport parking lot. Today another job candidate for a different tenure-track position was scheduled to arrive late this afternoon at Eppley Airfield in Omaha, Nebraska. My wonderful colleague and friend S., who was in charge of picking up the job candidate, and who is possibly even more directionally dyslexic than I am, asked me if I’d like to come along and help out with directions, driving, and general candidate retrieval operations. Now I realize that this might appear to be a case of the blind leading the blind, which, well it probably is, but S. and I both adhere to the philosophy that being hopelessly lost and unable to locate an airport is much less upsetting if there is another person in the car, even if they are no help whatsoever. At the departmental potluck last night fellow faculty members attempted to give us helpful tips and instructions. Oh, it’s easy, just make sure to bear left when you hit blah blah blah, and make sure to go northeast when you see blah blah blah. None of them seemed to notice that in response we both just stared at all of them, baffled. It was kind of like that Gary Larsen cartoon, “What Cats Hear,” which if memory serves me correctly went something along the lines of “Blobbity blah blah blah cat food blobbity blobbity blah blah blah blobbity.” Only replace “cat food” in this instance with “airport,” I suppose.
While waiting for S. to pick me up, I passed the time by fooling around with experiments in self portraiture, including an attempt at a Mirror Project entry, as well as a self-portrait with lepidoptera. S. finally arrived at my apartment and so, armed with a computer printout of instructions, a map of Omaha helpfully highlighted with magic marker, two cell phones, a digital camera and a laptop, we departed for Omaha shortly after noon, determined that Mission Job Candidate Retrieval would be a success.
And we arrived at Eppley Airfield without a hitch whatsoever. We were triumphant. Elated. Flushed with our own prowess. Bordering on smug, even. We arrived early enough to cop a squat and have some coffee. Shortly after our arrival at the airport, however, S. was paged. It was our departmental secretary, calling to say that the job candidate’s flight had been cancelled, and that he was going to be rerouted through the Sioux Falls airport instead, where another one of our colleagues would be dispatched to pick him up. (Did I mention that it’s a two-hour drive to Omaha?) Apparently, our colleague E. had tried to call me on my cell phone, but since the incoming number showed up as being unidentifiable, and since only a very small handful of people even have my cell phone number it didn’t even occur to me that the incoming call was possibly related to our candidate retrieval issues. I blew off checking the voice-mail since my phone was registering as being on roam and I didn’t want to incur roaming charges . . . I just assumed it was probably a social call. (Well. Did I mention that Omaha is a two-hour drive away?)
So S. and I did the only sensible thing at that point in time. We decided to see if we could find our way to Old Market–a marvelous cobblestoned, old brick section of old town Omaha that’s chock-a-block with terrific restaurants, art galleries, and great little shops. (We got there pretty easily, barring a disturbing moment of going the wrong way down a one-way street . . . which was not our fault as it was technically a two-way street, but there was a lot of construction/road work, so it was only temporarily a one-way street and not officially a one-way street, and I’m convinced that you would have to be a local to even know that.) We browsed through some art galleries and shops, visited an amazing European-style patisserie called Delice (which had an astonishing array of beautifully crafted Lindzer Tortes, Creme Brulees, Napoleons, Gateau Neige, and Fruit Tarts in their pastry case), and then ate dinner at a fabulous East Indian restaurant called the Indian Oven, whose menu read like a poem, with words like fenugreek, cardamom, and tamarind.
Also, there was the matter of the ceramic pigs. Somehow we each came home with one–thus depleting an Old Market store of its entire stash of ceramic pigs. Admittedly, the degree to which one actually requires a ceramic pig unabashedly tattooed in shockingly extravagant florals is, of course, subject to argument. But I tell you what. That pig . . . it just had my name written all over it.
On the way back home, nearing Sioux City, S. turned to me and said, “We could just keep going, you know. Go straight up to Sioux Falls and maybe arrive there just in time to pick up the candidate so E. doesn’t have to.” Despite the fact that I was egregiously speeding, the cops weren’t after us, though, and so, unlike Thelma and Louise, we just came home . . . and didn’t end up having to drive off the edge of the Grand Canyon or anything like that.