I had gone down the east of the Show Me State, getting frustrated with the bypasses of St. Louis, while I listened to my friends’ CD as I passed the limestone on the east of Missouri. I paralleled the river for awhile (although I never saw it), while the trees and bluffs gradually made their way into low rolling fields. With that, I finally crossed into Arkansas, where the density of semis made a driver’s life frustrating and strange exit ramps broke up the road. Arkansas endeared itself to me because it was also (finally) where at least one police car that actually got someone who deserved it.
Somewhere along the way I stopped in one of the strangest bathrooms in my life in some gas station (the floor was so flooded and you nearly waded to a toilet) before I crossed over the Mississippi to Memphis. I watched the barges as I drove over steel road, and wondered how much of the water was Itasca. I then almost immediately hit the traffic in Tennessee. That took awhile to get through, and I attempted to help a teenage motorist who was stranded, but could not. Finally, in Mississippi, the pines and a well-maintained highway are all that greeted me in the most southern of states.
I arrived in Oxford and stopped in a hotel along Jackson street, and was interrupted by what sounded like a very load broken air conditioner. I stepped outside, and the other guests and I watched a helicopter fly slowly over the road and the parking lot. The police closed the road off, and it landed, while everyone stood outside and took pictures. A stretcher came, they loaded up, and the helicopter took off. The papers, as far as I know, never wrote a thing about it.
The next day I went to Ole Miss, a confusing labyrinth of circular roads, buildings that looked like fraternity houses (and fraternity houses that looked like regular school buildings), and clean, modern street. It confused me. Eventually, after talking with undergraduate and graduate studies, where I talked with the student at the desk, I was told to e-mail someone. It turned out she was out of the country, but I came back and talked to someone new who thought to just ask around back, and graciously a student came out. Thus I managed to find my way into a campus tour. The student who took me was very nice, and we drove around in a golf cart. She told me about some of the eccentricities of Ole Miss, such as the rush to find spots to tailgate, and the fact that apparently in the South, they don’t use blinkers. She showed me the school of Southern Studies upon request, as well as the English department, and did a pretty good job. No complaints.
It was the school of Southern Studies that I learned about the “Bless Your Heart” mentality of the south. I had previously written the center about meeting, introducing myself as a folklorist and a potential graduate student. I got a response about how this “might be arranged” and decided to stop in. A frizzy, red-haired secretary, left for lunch, and I looked up my contact, knocking at her office door. She wasn’t there. The secretary came back, I explained my predicament, me being from North Dakota and not knowing my way around and all, she also went upstairs knocked at the door. No one, answered. She said she liked my tie, and I tried to explain about it, but she didn’t want to hear. I mentioned that I had some pamphlets, but are there any more? She said “yes yes, sounds like you got everything you need.” She smiled as she kicked me out the door. Southerners. I went back to ask her where to eat just to throw her off.
More disappointingly, I had also earlier gone to the English department, explaining how the graduate director said he may be able to make time in his schedule to me to ask a few questions. Three days prior, I wrote him about Thursday or Friday. He didn’t respond. I wrote the night before. He didn’t respond. I talked to the student at the desk. Office hours by appointment only. I later came back and talked to the other secretary. She said I could go to his office. I did, for an hour and twenty minutes. He never arrived, so I don’t know if he went home or was busy. I guess too busy to talk, or tell me he was too busy to talk. It was midterms, perhaps? Well, I knew when I was snubbed, anyway.
I left, and ate the second half of a cold sandwich from last night, and wrote this. I will not miss Oxford, and I will not miss Ole Miss. Now to withdraw my application fee…. Well, we know that’s not going to happen.
However I had one morning left.