By Ralph Hood
When I was speaking professionally I got around—at one time or another—to each of the 100 biggest cities in the USA. I kinda took it in stride. No real problem (Well, there was the time in the wee hours of the morning in Chicago when my rental car started talking to me. The nice lady was asking the nature of my difficulty… I told her it was late at night, I was in Chicago, worn out and couldn’t get this car to shut up. She took care of the problem immediately.)
I lived in cities most of my life. Then, nine and a half years ago, Gail and I moved to Erwin, a town of around 6,000 folks, nestled in the mountains, about ten minutes from the Appalachian Trail and less than that to an interstate highway. It’s hard to find a location like that, but we found it. We’re in what we call “low elevations” and most snow falls in “higher elevations” If we can’t wait for it to snow in Erwin, we can just drive up to “higher country,” see postcard-pretty snow and come back home.
Still, Gail and I both sorta wondered if we would be happy in such a small town.
Then, recently, on a drive to Asheville to meet my sister for lunch, it became obvious that Erwin has ruined me for cities; not just huge cities, you understand, but even for small to medium cities.
This burst of enlightenment came to me in a rush. I managed to find the location of our meeting just fine. Now—said I—all I have to do is find a place to park. Forever later, as I still sought that parking place, I was pounding on my steering wheel in sheer frustration. Finally, I found a parking garage, and in full belief that my troubles were over, waited in line, grabbed my ticket and began to go around in circles, gaining one floor in each full circle until I reached the top, which was almost empty.
I was delighted to see there was a canopy-covered walkway over to a building. I took the walk, only to find that mere peons were neither invited to use that walkway nor allowed to enter that building. Seemed to me they should have put that sign at the beginning of that walkway instead of the end. There were no other directions at all, but I walked to the other end of the parking lot and found a door that let me into a little room with an elevator.
But, enough of that—I finally got to the restaurant, My sister still wasn’t’ there. I called her, only to find that she was hunting a parking place!
Eventually we got together and had a terrific lunch, passed the latest family stories back and forth and had a great time.
When we left, everything happened in reverse. Find the parking lots, find the cars, figure out how to get out of town and get back to—rejoice, rejoice—little Erwin!
I arrived back in Erwin, prepared to enjoy low traffic, no confusion and peaceful, blissful serenity. I arrived just in time for the Apple Festival!