Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Electronics Store At The End of the Universe

So, Friday night I sign off and dash out right at 5. I need another phone, this one for my office, because today they were coming to put in the new phone line so I don't have to have customers leaving me voicemails on my home phone on Saturday mornings. There is, I'm told, a Radio Shack, five miles outside of town on Rt 287 South. The owner, who I spoke to on Thursday, advised the drive was 'just past the end of the guardrail' on the left hand side, five miles out of town. He closes at 5 Monday-Thursday, though he said "we're usually here" and I was welcome to come at 5 if I needed to, I told him I'd just come Friday after work so as not to inconvenience him.
I should explain, for those unfamiliar, that out here, there are no big box stores. No Circuit City, No Best Buy, those things are a solid 50 mile drive into New York state, where you have the privilege of paying 7.5% sales tax on whatever you buy. The mall is an hour and a half away. Most places close early, so purchases of anything you don't normally get at the grocery store involve a bit of research and planning. More often than not when you call you are speaking to the owner or one of their children. And, more often than not, they will offer to meet you outside of store hours if you are desperate, because, more often than not, their house is attached to the store.
I leave town, intending to get cash on the way at theMini-Market across from the lake. I remember only when I arrive that for some reason, that particular market does not have an ATM. Just for additional confirmation, I ask them where the Radio Shack is. They assure me its "3-4 miles down the road". I circle back to downtown get cash, and head out again, hitting my trip odometer as I do.
I go four miles.
Then five.
Then seven and a half.
All I see is pitch blackness and pine trees. At this point I'm looking for a place to turn around, which is proving a little tricky. The whole way I'm feeling like a Freshman that someone has played a cruel joke on. I'm getting karma for the time I convinced a kid the school had a pool in the basement. At this point I've conceded that it was ridiculous to try and find this place in the dark. I find a driveway to turn around in and head back toward town. Five miles on I see a sign perched in the weeds just below the guardrail.
I turn down a rutted road that crosses a creek and ends on a steep hill just below a small farm. The store does not face the road. And sure enough, it is a farm/house/RV dealership/piano showroom/Radio Shack. I walk in, squinting at the wall displays of electronics, slightly disoriented, as you'd be if you stumbled upon someone in a recliner watching TV in the middle of the woods. The owner greets me with "They just got a red stag". I look at him blankly, thinking perhaps this is a code and I've stumbled on a rendezvous of spies. He gestures toward the 42 inch LCD flatscreen on which he is watching a big game hunt in New Zealand where a couple of excited guys did indeed just shoot a red stag. I express polite interest. He ushers me to one side of the store, where, mounted on the walls amid the Baldwins is EVERY LIVING THING HE EVER PLUGGED WITH A SHOTGUN. Bears, deer, elk, an antelope, a couple of menacing looking beavers.
I choose my phone, and pay cash (after all that he takes debit cards), chat with him a while longer, and head back into town. They tell me there's an excellent little general store out that way too, but I don't think I'm going to try and find it in the dark.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Settling In

Hello everyone!

This update is too long in coming, but it took me a couple of weeks to get my feet on the ground up here. I drove out on Saturday, October 29th, my car stacked to the roof with computers, plants, and weapons, (what else does one need, really?) excited to finally be going‘home’ but very sad to leave. I immediately attacked the wall of boxes that greeted me when I arrived, and since Bryan invited his entire family for dinner the next day, the impetus was there to arrange the furniture in such a way that sitting in the living room wasn’t a spelunking expedition. (To be fair, they brought dinner.) Once the dust settled and the first thirty or so cartons were unpacked, bed linens located, and the kitchen assembled to a reasonable degree of functionality, I set about exploring this new town. I learned a few useful things:

1. Locking is optional. Leave it unlocked, leave the windows down. Nobody’s going to touch your car. The visor’s a really good place to keep your keys. So you know where they are.

2. Bring cash. Not all banks have ATMs. Not all stores take debit cards. Not all stores have cash registers; some do up a receipt by hand, use a calculator for the tax, and tear you off a copy.

3. Pay your utilities in person. The electric company’s closer than the post office. Why waste $0.37 when you can take a nice walk and exchange pleasantries with the lady at the counter? Ditto for water, sewer, and trash.

4. Its pronounced, ‘Wells-bruh’. Upstate New York with a touch of Minnesota and a whiff of the Canadian border is the accent here. Give me another week and I’ll have mastered it. Give me six months and I’ll forget what I used to sound like.

5. Don’t write yourself in as a joke when you vote here. You might win. (I didn’t do this; I heard a story.)

6. If the pickup truck is towing a 4-wheeler and the driver is wearing any combination of blaze orange and camouflage do not glance in the bed of the truck unless dead wildlife is interesting to you.

7. If you need to go to a store that closes at 5, and you work until 5, chances are the owner (who answered the phone) will offer to stay and wait for you. Except Sunday, when everything is closed.

8. Speaking of Sunday, don’t be late to church. Your chances of sneaking in unnoticed are hampered considerably by the fact that there are only 47 people there and 10 of them are your neighbors.

9. Directional landmarks are tricky, since a mile outside town its trees, trees, trees. Its not uncommon for people to refer to guardrail as a guide, as in “Our driveway is a quarter mile or so from where the guardrail ends”.

I’m still working on slowing down as I observe that this seems to be a community that runs on neighborly consideration and good manners. Driving is much less an act of aggression in these parts. (Nobody’s in a hurry because everything you need is either right here or 50-80 miles away and in that case you’re going to make a Saturday of going to get it.)
That’s about it for now; the to-do list for the house centers around the last of the unpacking, acquisition of a bit of furniture, and raking up the leaves to stash in leaf bags in the garage so I can add them to my compost come spring. (And planning my very first Thanksgiving dinner that I am making. More on that later.)