Sunday, June 9, 2013

Curiouser & Curiouser: Twentyish Questions with the Executive Editor — Part Two

Hello again, Beardies!

I'm pretty sure you've figured out by now that Joshua is one of my best friends in the world.  In ten or more years, I've discovered that he has but one tragic flaw--he often leaves his coffee cup unattended. Having (finally) sweet-talked him into letting me interview him, he clammed right up as soon as I began interrogating--I mean, politely asking him questions--and refused to give me anything more than his name.  And so it took months to actually get the interview.  I had to wait until he left his coffee cup unattended to spike his brew with truth serum.  He is useless under truth serum.  (Make that two tragic flaws.)  Useless, and talkative.  So very talkative, we're taking two posts just to get through the first question.

When last we left our hero, he had chosen a college...simply because it began with A.  It was a fateful choice, indeed, and, it turns out, and adventure in travel getting there.  Here's part two of the story, straight from our blabbing-under-truth-serum Executive Editor...

Elizabeth: You are a proud son of Maine, but I met you at a small college in the middle of Michigan, where you’d never set foot before our first day. How did that happen?

Joshua: As I stated in Part One, this was a loaded question—one which required two posts to fully answer.  You're right—I hadn't ever stepped foot onto Alma College's campus, let alone Michigan soil, until Pre-Term of Freshman year. But that wasn't the original plan...

Here's Part Two:

I left off recounting the story of how I found Alma College... Now for the part of how I actually got there.

I flew. And boy were my arms tired! :) That was a horrific joke, I know, but I did warn you it was straight out of a Stephen King book!

Haha. Just kidding, though only with the length of the anecdote. Originally, I was supposed to move to Alma in mid-June 1999—not the end of August. I had a bit of savings, which I was going to use to invest in an apartment while I worked for the Admissions Office. I had also just been given a car that previous Christmas. It was a used, Chevrolet Celebrity—dark gold with two white doors. Yeah, I was pimpin' like a rockstar! Hey, it wasn't called a Celebrity for nothing!

Anywho...I had my car all packed up, filled to the brim with all of my worldly possessions, and I was about to venture west—Midwest, to be exact—1,300 or so miles through Québec (the land of my people) and Ontario, all the way to the middle-of-nowhere Michigan. Yep. So much for Joshua in the Big City. How that happened, I still wasn't quite sure. But Alma's appeal, though it was in the middle of nowhere: complete freedom and escape Mainetucky. The fact that they offered me a fair amount of grants to go there was just icing on the cake.

My mom's always been a bit of a sensitive. She knew when bad things were going to happen. Pulling me aside, she said that I should wait to leave...said that she had a horrible feeling I was going to be in an accident. As much as I tried to convince her that I would be fine, and that I wasn't going to be in an accident, I finally conceded to her pleas for me to stay the summer.

She helped me secure a summer job at a 24-hour gas station in Lincoln—a 35-40 minute drive (one way)—managed by one of her friends. Yep. Yours truly was a jockey at the full-service pump. (Who knew a gay bloke knew how to check the oil level of a car??) Though I grew up on a farm and had to get up with the sun to feed the cows and horses, I have never been much of a morning person. And I had just landed the greatest shift ever: 6AM-2PM (Oh joy!)...which meant I had to get up at 5AM in order to be there on time. My third day of work, I left a little early. The traffic (two-lane roads tend to get backed up, even in Webster Plantation, Maine) had been more than I expected my first day, and even had me arriving late my second.

On the way to work—not 3 miles down the road—I rounded a corner to find a doe standing near the middle of the road. She was in the opposite lane and facing the woods that lined it, so I merely swerved a bit to avoid hitting her. Success.

Except it wasn't, and my mom's premonition of me getting in an accident suddenly came true. For all of you whom have never been to Maine, it's a very sandy state—there's even a desert in Freeport, Maine, birthplace of L.L. Bean. Curse the sand, however, as my back tire got caught in an overly soft patch of it, yanking the rest of my car off the road. No biggie, really, except that the side of the road was a steep drainage ditch, and my car was headed straight toward the telephone pole that emerged from the middle of it.

Descending from three generations of bus drivers, I was taught to drive well. Thankfully. I kept the steering wheel pulled tightly to the left—as tight as it would go—and managed to avoid a head-on collision with the pole. The passenger side of my car, however, didn't fair so lucky, the whole of it dented by its twisted-metal tango with the telephone pole. It literally got the rod, and I was already tearing up thinking I might get it as well.

Remember that doe I mentioned? Apparently the sound of crunching metal and glass scared the bejeezus out of her. After hitting the telephone pole, my car managed to find its way back to the road—clear over to the other side where the doe still stood. The tightly turned steering wheel saved my life, but I couldn't say the same for that poor doe. I hit her, trying not to with all my might and another overcorrection of the steering wheel in the attempts to avoid her. She bounded off, but I think she may have died shortly after disappearing, as the smell that lingered afterward indicated it.

I checked my pants. It wasn't me.

My poor car made it back to the proper side of the road and promptly died. Fortunately, an approaching vehicle stopped and the driver asked if I needed help. He was kind enough to let me use his carphone to call work and let them know I wouldn't be in that day, and to also call my mom to let her know I had been in an accident. There was no answer at home, but the man was kind enough to drive me back home.

With a proverbial tail between my shaky legs, I climbed the stairs to let my mother know I had been in an accident. I hadn't told her anything about the accident other than nearly avoiding a fatal kiss from a telephone pole, so you can imagine how shocked I was when the first question out of her mouth—after asking if I was alright, of course—was whether or not I hit the deer. Creepy, huh? I told you she was a sensitive.

Skip forward to the end of August. With most of my worldly possessions already safely in Alma (shipped a week ahead and graciously held in the Admissions Office by Ms. Julie Williams), all that was left to arrive there was me. Unfortunately there are no direct flights from Webster Plantation to Alma.  Unfortunately for you that is, as now you have to endure the tale of my traumatic first flight from Maine to Michigan. I can guarantee you, however, that you will suffer less than I originally did...maybe not.

The plane was to depart from Bangor, Maine (a two-hour drive from Webster) around 4:30PM. We arrived early, thankfully, as my flight was cancelled. Yes, I said thankfully, as they put me on the next flight to Boston, which was scheduled to depart around 3:00PM—fifteen minutes from when I arrived, pre-9/11, mind you. Bangor Airport is the size of a supermarket—those of you who have seen the Stephen King movie, The Langoliers, know it well, actually—so getting to the terminal was just a matter of walking to the other side of the building. Three minutes...with twelve to spare for final farewells.  After a tear-soaked goodbye to my family, I climbed up the stairs to board the plane—a glorified cigar tube with wings—and we took off toward Boston. 

I fought the nerve and the voice in my head repeatedly telling me to shred paper {wink} and peacefully read the book I had stashed in my carry-on. It was a quick flight to Boston, but my feet (and my stomach) were quite happy to be on Terra firma once again. That is until I found out more bad news.
My flight from Boston to Cincinnati had been delayed, which meant I would not make it into Cincinnati in time to catch the connecting flight to Lansing. Great. It also meant that the airline would have to put me up in a hotel room for the night, as my flight would be arriving after the airport was closed. Wonderful.

Two hours later I boarded a flight to Cincinnati, arriving there shortly before midnight. I had to be escorted to the luggage hold to get a change of clothes from my bags, and then it was off to the hotel to stand in a line at least twenty deep with passengers in the same predicament. Forty-five minutes later, I finally arrive at the check-in counter, airline voucher in hand. And fortunately with credit card in wallet. Yep. Even though I had a voucher from the airline for a free stay, they still required a credit card before they let me check in. (A month later, when the bill arrived, I understood why. Psst. They charged me anyway. Money I never got refunded.)

My flight was early the next morning. By this time, after a summer of morning shifts, it wasn't an issue. I quickly showered, got dressed, and grabbed some complimentary breakfast (not to worry, I had my credit card in hand...just in case). I was soon barreling down the highway toward Cincinnati Airport on one of the scariest bus rides I've ever experienced, and arrived clear on the wrong side of the airport. As luck would have it, the terminal wasn't a three minute walk across the building; it was a 15 minute sprint toward a train station which would drop me off relatively close to the terminal, from where I would then have to catch a different bus to my actual gate. Yippee. Only 20 minutes until the flight was scheduled to depart. I was surely not going to make it.

After the train dropped me off, however, I no longer had to worry about rushing. The flight had been delayed an hour due to heavy fog. It was my lucky day, I thought, though how terribly mistaken I was. As soon as I arrived at the gate, I checked in. And then I waited. And waited. The flight, which was originally supposed to depart at 9:45AM had, after several delays, become a 3:45PM flight. Oh, joy!

The coffee I had earlier had worked a spell on my bladder, so I sought out the nearest restroom. I should have sought elsewhere, as that's when the nightmarish stalking incident began. At the time, of course, I didn't realize it. Sure, I thought it was a little strange when the older, creepy man stood and watched me wash and dry my hands in the bathroom, but I got the hell out of Dodge, and I went to the phones to update my mom and Alma College (they were sending someone to retrieve me from the airport).  That's when I noticed the Creep from the bathroom staring at me, watching me on the phone. Needless to say, I was a little unnerved. I could see the headlines flashing before my eyes: “Innocent country boy found dead in airport terminal.” An overactive imagination, you say? Ha! Not me. I left the phones, took a winding detour through the airport McDonald's, then another winding path toward a bookstore I had spotted earlier.

The Creep was gone. Or so I thought. I had just selected an Anne Rice book to read on the flight to Lansing (I had finished my previous title with all the delays and such), and I moved toward a spinning rack of postcards. Just browsing, killing time before my flight. And that's when the hair stood on the back of my neck. Apparently my mom isn't the only sensitive. I could feel eyes staring at me, burning holes in the back of my head. I looked up to find the Creep standing directly behind me—his Jack Torrance smile beaming brightly from the pits of Hell.

I casually placed the postcard back in the rack, gathered my carry-on and Anne Rice book, and headed to the check-out line. The Creep lingered for a bit, not knowing I had the cashier call airport security. I think he figured it out, however, as he disappeared before they arrived. I prayed he wasn't on the same flight and hid in a quiet corner with my book until my flight was called. And amazingly, even after that traumatic experience, I don't mind flying!

After arriving in Lansing, I waited with Ken, one of the Hall Directors, for two other students to arrive before our drive to Alma College: first Sarah, from Ireland, and then Francisco, from Puerto Rico. It is definitely an experience I won't soon forget, as is my entire experience at Alma College. The friends I met there, as you well know, I will treasure for life.

I feel like I've been talking for a while... Have I been talking a lot?  What was I saying?  Why are you looking at me like that?  Did I say something I wasn't supposed to say?  A secret?  I don't remember what I was talking about...nor do I remember drinking my coffee... What happened to my coffee?  I had a full cup just moments ago... Did you drink my coffee?

Elizabeth:  Of course I didn't drink your coffee.  Why would I do that?  You're not seriously accusing me of being a coffee-thief...?


Oops...looks like the serum's wearing off.  I'm sure there will be more stories, the next time our boy leaves his cup unattended.  For now, I've got some explaining to do...

So, a hasty Happy Scribing to all!

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