May 11, 2011


A birds-eye view

Everything looks innocuous at 35,000 feet. The land is all squared away into neat little plots of orange, brown and green, and the roads are beautifully straight and simple, and assuming there are no screaming kids on-board, there is no noise, other than that of the humming plane engine and the din of your fellow passengers talking in low, even tones, and it probably smells like brewing coffee and stringently clean air, and assuming it’s daytime, which we are clearly assuming, the light is blue and pacifying, high above the clouds and neutral to the rainy day doldrums, the sunshine jitters, or whatever other mood that any given sky can bring on.

It was from this vantage point that I watched my country pass beneath me, thousands of miles accomplished as easily as if I had just taken a game piece and moved it from Start to Finish. Just like that, I hopped on a plane and traveled from West to East, undoing everything I just did in the last month or so that I’ve been on the road again. So, really, I guess the analogy is that I had just been sent back 20 squares.

I was somewhere between being asleep and awake, when I heard the man in front of me telling the stewardess to look out the window. I followed his pointing finger, worried that he was pointing to some sort of defect, perhaps flames on the wing where we Exit Row passengers were sittin but alas, it was the Mighty Mississippi that he wanted this gal to see, because she was flowing over her banks. Reports had been in the news lately of engineers busting a levee in Missouri and how Memphis, Tenn., had been flooding something awful, and how the water was flowing south and rising, creeping its way ever closer to the Gulf of Mexico, inviting itself into homes and across farmland, and then Bam! We were looking at it.

This man said that he was from Mississippi, though he lived in San Antonio now, and he had only really seen the river flood like this on one other occasion and that was in the 1970s. And actually, if you read news reports, you see that the river is reaching records it set when it crested in 1920s and ‘30s.

He was in the medical field, this man. Something to do with sonic waves busting up bones and kidney stones. This was the way: people his age, the Baby Boomers, working these jobs. It was stupid for companies to hire people like me, no offense, because what did I know? It was the bottom line, I said, not intending to take my own side; I was merely explaining what the mindset was for these bosses, who could hire kids like me for less pay than someone with more experience— as if he needed to know. But he answered that it was foolish, because someone like me was going to need a lot more explanation on how to do something than someone his age. They created these jobs, after all, so rightfully, these jobs belonged to them.

And I had this flicker of protest in my mind: a flash, like a snake snapping, then recoiling. Aren’t we whippersnappers faster on technology? Don’t we catch onto these tools that we’re all expected to be using, as if we were born with them already in our hands? But I didn’t say anything, because what do I know? I’m just a girl driving around the country with her dog.

He told me to focus on small Texas towns, the courthouses in particular, when I get back there in a few weeks. In the spring, he said, there was a really big festival in Houston, and that in the fall, everything in the state was just like in the television series Friday Night Lights, with granddaddies telling their sons and grandsons not to lose the game, and that I had a lot to see outside of Austin, because Austin was just a bunch of California people and I needed to get out of there.

I said that I had seen some things, that I had started on the Bolivar Peninsula.

“What’s left of it,” he said.

A lot of it was in the bay, I agreed, adding that when I went out on a shrimp boat, we had pulled up an entire wiring system from a house, breaker and all.

“You woulda done,” he said.

Nothing impressed him.

And then I said that I had continued to The Woodlands outside Houston and he said that he used to live there and what a story that place had.

“Well, yeah,” I said. “The developer left all the trees.”

Okay, sure, he said, but the real story was that along with a few other communities in the country, it had been forced to fit a certain demographic in order to be funded and built, so that now, there were Section 8 houses alongside these mini-mansions.

“I missed that story,” I said.

And he continued that it was a nice place and that he had loved living there.

“Yeah, I liked it,” I said. “It was a nice place to stop for a few days.”

And in my mind, it will forever be the shady, quiet place that I stopped and rested and had a few days to breathe, before my wheels flew off.

Then I said that I had gone down to McAllen and he said that The Valley had gotten interesting over the last few years, but that was about all he could say, and so I felt like maybe, just maybe, I had that one on him, but then he sort of tried to turn back to his newspaper and I had to pee, so I excused myself and went to the back of the plane.

Read more from Detours
8 Comments Post a comment
  1. SirenaSteve
    May 11 2011

    You are not “JUST a girl driving around the country with her dog” but “MY FAVORITE girl driving around the country with her dog”…

  2. May 11 2011

    “austin is just a bunch of california people” my ass.

    (i’m headed to bolivar peninsula this year with my cameras. lighthouse?)

  3. hillary
    May 11 2011

    You know what? Mr. Bonesmasher has probably never even been to Austin. He’s probably too scared because he thinks we’re all naked, subsist solely on sustainably farmed radishes and regularly partake in “Take Your Bong to Work Day”. He’s right but you know what? We’re fun and that’s one thing Mr. Bonesmasher will never be able to say about himself.

  4. May 12 2011

    Y’all are awesome. Thanks. And to be honest, Rachel, I didn’t see the lighthouse! Ack!

  5. Mary Anne
    May 16 2011

    Hey Margaret!

    I’m pretty sure you hopped on a plane and traveled WEST to EAST! 🙂

    Glad you are on the road again. Can’t wait to read more.

    Mary Anne

    • May 16 2011

      Ooops. Thanks for the catch, Mary Anne! Fixed it.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The way we are | Flit Flitter
  2. Into the sunset | Flit Flitter

Share your thoughts, post a comment.


Note: HTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to comments