Saturday, September 6, 2008

Travel Stories

This week I had a training in Birmingham, AL. I was excited because this is where one of my former students was going to school and where "Ms. Alabama" Pam Walker lives. I couldn't get a hold of Pam, but I did get a hold of Jay. Thanks to him, a book wasn't my dinner partner on Thursday night.
My adventures started in a Nissan Versa. I drove about a mile away from the airport, looked down, and saw all these ants coming out of the dash, cup holder, and the steering wheel. I think I killed about twenty before I even had the car turned around. For my problems the rental company upgraded me to a Mountaineer. It was either that or a Mustang, but that was not an option. I did NOT want to drive He told me he was giving me a small SUV like the Ford Escape. I've driven the Escape -that I can handle. This car was more like the Explorer or Edge.
And if I had realized how narrow some of the streets were, how ing, and that Alabama is not as flat as I once pictured, I would have begged for the smaller car without the ants.
Anyway, so I get to the hotel and the room is freezing and has a wet floor. Can't turn the air off without smelling the damp. Can't walk in the bathroom without slipping since the bottom of my shoes are now wet. And the air has to stay on so you can mask the smell, but it's not a comforting sound. But the room is clean - so I'll deal.
Jay and I had a great dinner at Johnny Rockets, caught up with how school's been going, gave him a talking to about performance in classes, etc. He even gave me a few minutes in the bookstore and didn't complain about my driving. Such a good kid.
The next morning I left the hotel for the 12 minute drive to the district office. I printed directions off in case my Garmin was wrong. The directions matched, I was good to go. I was leaving early so I could stop and buy black socks. Never got the socks. And I didn't get to the school board by 7:20 as planned. Instead, I was scared witless by 7:30!
I got to the location and it didn't look right. There was no school board offices, the houses looked run down, there were large empty lots that had the appearance of either construction work that stopped or never got started, and things just didn't feel right. But there was a McDonalds and a gas station so I pulled into the gas station for directions. The first person was from Mississippi - didn't know the area. The lady behind the counter didn't speak English. Three guys walked in, and I decided to ask them for help. They said they were from the area and when I said I was looking for 18th Street South or the School Board offices of Jefferson County. The bigger of the three guys asked me if I was crazy, "don't you know not to go asking no stranger for directions? You don't know where they goin' to send you." I responded that I was lost and was just hoping they would be nice enough to help me out. The guy said, "okay, I'll be nice. That here road is 18th Street. You came the north. Head that way for the south side. Just turn right out of the lot."
I walked super fast back to my car, and looked back inside the store. The guys were laughing. The big guy had his back to me, and when he bent at the waist, I saw the gun tucked in the back of his pants. I stepped on the gas and turned right.
Quickly I realized I was not going the right direction. Nope. Nada. See, I was headed down a dead end. No sign saying so, but the road stopped, there were trees all around, and no where to go. I did a three point turn, looked in my rear view mirror and saw the guys still at the store, and turned around. When I drove past them, they were laughing and pointing at me and one of them made the gun signal, shot it my way and then waved goodbye.
That episode of "The District" where Jack had to go to California for something to do with a case, and the car he rented had a navigational device or computer in it that had been tampered with. It sent him to a destitute, deserted lot. He was a cop who knew no fear. I knew fear.
I got back on the Interstate, pulled over at the next exit, plugged in Jay's dorm (on 14th Street South) and found my way from there.
Found 18th Street. Went the wrong way at first, so I turned around. Got to the 900 area and I'm not sure how far up it went, but all the sudden, the road dead ended into a beautiful historic looking school on a hill. I went around the school, thinking 18th street continued on the other side. Nope. But I did find a Police Station with an officer and a janitor standing outside.
I explained I was lost. I told him what happened. He said white girls shouldn't be on the north streets. Told me how to get to where I was going. It wasn't on 18th Street as I would find it. I called Jane. Her soothing voice helped calm me down. I was nervous I wouldn't find the site. But I did find it. I signed in at 8:15, still a bit shaking.
And I guess the training went okay. I had abotu 50 + hard working media specialists in there. We were cramped for time, barely covering everything. But I heard great comments and they said they wanted me to come back.
Especially since I know my way now. :-)

1 comment:

m said...

Hey, You were in my home town. Pretty scary in some parts but really nice in others. I just read today that Jefferson County (that's B'ham) had declared bankruptcy. I didn't know that was an option for counties. I don't know how that affects the school district but I thought that was interesting. My Mom and brother live in Leeds right outside of B'ham and my daughter Katie and her family just moved from there to Memphis. Sorry you had a bad experience but glad all went well and you are home safe.