Imk Soup: WATCH FOR WIND
by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
SEATTLE, Wash.--What is it about me? Even on the road, thousands ofmile= s from my listing in the phone book, I attract wrong numbers.
In Davenport, Iowa, I had gone peacefully to sleep when the telephonein = my motel room rang at something past eleven. The followingconversation too= k place:
Professor Brown? Speaking.
Squeaky? Dis de Exel Inn?
Yes. Whom are you calling, please? Whom? OK, who? Bessie Brown.=
I thought you said Profess ... never mind. She is not here. You havethe= wrong number.
Dis de Exel Inn, right? Tell Bessie she in big ... never = mind.
~ ~ ~
In South Dakota my cell phone, of all inviolable instruments, came ofage= : It also received a wrong number.
Expecting to hear the voice of a wife= , a brother, a grandchild,whatever, I said Hello and a man asked for Angel= a Evans.
I said there must be some mistake; what number had he called? He gavet= he number of my cellphone. That is this number, said I, but I amdriving on= I-90 near Spearfish, S.D. And I am alone, I had the presenceof mind to ad= d. Oh, said he. But the area code is not 206? It is, saidI. This is a ce= llphone. Click.
~ ~ ~ Did I handle this well? Could I= have been a little more protective of the reputations of Bessie and Angela= ? Did not the old geezer rasp of myvoice console the callers? What on ear= th could Bessie and Angela and Ihave been up to, except a game of hearts? = That is a rhetorical question;kindly do not E-mail me your answers.
~ ~ ~ On a long trip, however, it is not the people who turn= up uninvited on mycell phone that drive me nuts--it is those who hang out = in the left, orpassing, lane, where it is the manifest will of God that I a= lone shoulddrive.
~ ~ ~
There is one type in particular that I loathe: the Left LaneHomesteader.= This is a slow driver who once found himself behind an evenslower driver = and undertook to pass him by venturing for the first timeinto the left lane= .
But, once in the left lane, he looked around and liked what he saw.
He began to put down roots. His wife liked the left lane, too, and ther= e were good schools for the children. He decided to settle down there, and= i f cars were blinking their headlights behind him, or recklessly passing h= im on the right, well that was their problem. He'd found the great good pl= ace at last and he meant to stay there.
~ ~ ~
But a trip across America (6000 miles from Seattle to South Carolinaand = back) is not all aggravation. Far from it. It is a beautifulcountry. Iow= a is incredible. South Dakota is heartbreakingly lovely. And the signs!
= One motel advertised not only a low price but also a ConfidentialBreakfa= st. On my next trip I mean to find out what forbidden fruits theyoffer bes= ides hard roll and butter.
Near Kearney, Neb., I passed a sign that read Watch For WindOn Overpa= ss. Watch? Pigs are said to see the wind, but Nebraskans? I saw zip.
Actual sign on the back of a rickety house trailer, obviously homemadean= d in need of adult supervision: Son's Of God Ministry. There was mo= reabout the itinerant preacher or preachers in the car, but I hadn't thetim= e to read it.
I had the time to breathe a silent prayer for theapostrophe-challenged= .
Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus ofCompara= tive Literature at Princeton University.