söndag, april 10, 2005

Howdy, Neighbor

There are many foreign places in this country, and an interview with investigators in the five-year search for Eric Rudolph (who pleaded guilty on Saturday for bombing the Olympics in Atlanta, an abortion clinic, a family planning center, and a gay club) reminded me of that. One of the folks featured on an NPR interview commented on how just plain ignorant federal investigators were when they came to Mr. Tolerance's home town in North Carolina. People on the street, the interviewee explained, like to look you in the eye and get personal.

I remember that happening to me.

I was walking a cold, practically deserted Midwest main drive looking for a liquor store, when a man stared me down. His sole purpose for the connect, it turned out, was so that he could bid me a good day and comment on the weather. I felt like I just met the local lunatic, and thought to myself, "There but for the grace of fortune . . . " I began wondering about the odds of having the first person I met be the town mumbler, when man #2 two passed by and asked how I was doing. After he passed, I stopped, turned, and stared after him.

"I have heard of places like this," my companion reported.

We continued to our destination, the only thriving business on the block except for the Steak and Ale restaurant directly across the street. After loading up on wine with a cork and heading back to the car, we had difficulty balancing bags and keys while standing alongside the locked door. A woman rushed over and offered to help. We gave her one of the bags containing our sustenance for the next three days.

We had seen four whole people, including the liquor store's son (who annoyed my companion by thinking that a Barolla was a fancy string tie) and we went native.

Way unsettling.

I suppose it was rude of the rigid, calculating FBI agents to interfere with Sunday service and Wednesday Church suppers. It is no less rude for townspeople to think that everybody they encounter knows the routine, or, regardless of circumstances, is obliged to follow it. Me, I didn't mind going with the flow. Heck, I'll drink wine out of a screw top or even something spelled "Lite" if that is what you have to offer. I can get along with people, at least until I have had too much to drink and start arguing. But criticizing federal officers involved in a frustrating manhunt for a killer because Miss Congeniality and her guy counterparts did not demonstrate the right, um, deference to local customs, is just the kind of story that keeps me happy to be a big city gal. Cities teach perspective.

"I know," they laughed. "Let's teach the FBI agents a lesson and not cooperate."


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