Saturday, April 16, 2005

A Bright, Sunshiney Day

It has been a fabulous day. Not for any particular reason, other than the weather being wonderful. I spent quite a bit of time outside today, first helping my dad tape off my Blazer for painting so it will be ready to sell, then for a wonderfully long walk with my sister, then playing outside with my one year old niece. I even managed to get just a wee bit sunburned today. With my fair skin, it does not take much to achieve a burn, but I always enjoy getting just a bit of color in my skin.

It is so much fun to take my niece outside. She is fascinated by everything...every sound, everything she sees, every new texture and color. It really is refreshing to be able to look at the world through such innocent eyes again. Us very wise and mature grownups so quickly forget how truly fascinating the world around us is.

After I posted yesterday, I realized I forgot to share a few very key elements to my trip.

I come from a very small town consisting of about 1500 people. When we first moved here, nearly 20 years ago, there were just under 1000 people living in this small town. I share this to give the reader an idea of just how small a town this place is. Sure, it is larger than other towns in this area, but it's all the same....Small.

Anyway, the conference I went to was in Lansing, which is considerably larger than my small town, by thousands. And, we have only got two traffic lights in my town, and those are only flashing reds. Lansing has...a few more than two.

So, along with being out of my element in so many other ways, I now had to somehow negotiate this strange new place called "Lansing". Now, for a brief time in my life, I did live in a suburb of Detroit, so got a bit of experience driving in "the city", but I have been out of said city for quite some time, and was no longer accustomed to having to drive in the way only city drivers drive. That was remarkably stressful, and my traveling companion was more than willing to let me keep that particular joy to myself for the duration of our trip.

Once we managed to get through the traffic and find the hotel, we quickly realized we would have to utilize the parking garage. Okay, I had never used a parking garage before. I've only seen them in movies, when alleged crimes or secret meetings are taking place. Except for that one episode of Seinfeld, in which Jerry used one corner of the parking garage for his urinal. At any rate, as far as real life experience was concerned, this whole parking garage gig was totally new to me.

So, we pull into the garage. And had no idea what to do next. Of course, you cannot proceed into the garage to actually park until you get the permit to do so. How does one do that? I see lights and buttons and parking fees, but it does not tell you how you get to that magical place where you can leave your car and go about your day. Meanwhile, as I am trying to figure this out, a car pulls up behind me and waits...and waits...and waits. I have no idea what to do. Finally, my coworker says, "Try pushing the button!" And...voila!...the machine spits out a credit card looking thing, and I am allowed to proceed forward into the parking area.

So, we finally get into the parking area, and I have no idea where to go, so I just park the car. Again, I have never been in a parking garage before, so just took the space available. My coworker and I get our bags out of the car and proceed to walk toward the exit, and the toll booth attendant says, "Are you staying at the Radisson? You shouldn't park there, or they'll tow you. Best bet is to go up to the third floor."

Third floor? How do I get there? Oh, I have to back out of my space far enough to get to the ramp, lest I proceed through the parking garage driving in the wrong direction. To do this, I had to angle around this poor woman who got stuck behind me and was kindly allowing me to pull out in front of her. No amount of hand gestures could sway her to go ahead of me...she was going to do the polite thing and allow me to go first. Poor woman.

After both of us pulling forward and backing up several times, I finally got over to the ramp and made my way up to the third floor. Using the cleverly designed pedestrian walkway...again, a new thing, and so cool...we walked over to the hotel and checked in. We ate at the hotel restaurant, where everyone was dressed ever so much nicer than we were. And, in those moments, I realized how much of a "country bumkin" I really am.

I do not listen to country music, I don't line dance, and I have lived in different fairly urbanized places...but those moments showed me very clearly that I am indeed very much a small town girl. I was most decidedly out of my element.

The next day, we walked around town a bit. Nothing too exciting, but I loved the energy of the place. Sometimes, in the quiet of my small town, I wonder where everybody is and if they realize there is a whole world going on around them. I loved observing the different people, from different cultural backgrounds, all mixed into this day to day grind of living and working and relating. Where I live, it is predominantly caucasian, and if there happens to be anyone of any other ethnicity among us, it is well noted. It is sad, really, that such things should capture my attention, but I crave to know more about this world I live in and the people I share it with. There is so much I do not understand, but would like to.

I certainly have no intention or desire to move to Lansing, but I feel like this small town is taping my mouth shut, and I WANT TO LIVE OUT LOUD!

As we headed back after the conference, and I saw the landscape becoming gradually more rural, I loved and hated what I was returning to. And yet, today, as I was walking with my sister, I realized with some sadness that I am going to miss the cocoon of this very small town once I leave it. We do live in a bubble, in which the primary concerns are the school's lunch menu, what fundraiser is the Lions Club doing this week, and when in the world are they going to extend the bike trail that goes behind the Senior Center...and yet this bubble of fantasy and ignorance does offer a measure of security and warmth that I realize I will be leaving behind when I do make my anticipated move this summer.


Parking ramps: What architects do for entertainment between serious projects.
I kinda think the architechts were getting a little sloshed while doing this project, too.
And, I forgot to mention - I was in Lansing on Wednesday. I was at the WMU campus at Creyts and St. Joe for an emergency management training. About 6 miles from where you were.
No parking ramps.
I suddenly feel like the forces of the universe were aligning against me in order to make me use that blasted ramp!
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