This is the latest post in a series about a road trip to New Orleans that starts here.
While Lynn slept, I explored the breakfast bar at the Quality Inn in Oxford, Mississippi. It offered weak coffee, powdered “milk”, white bread for toast, single serving boxes of corn flakes, single portion bags of instant grits and oatmeal, and … do-it-yourself waffles.
These weren’t toaster-ready waffles. I watched people try to figure out the waffle maker one after another as I ate my instant grits. Where was the batter? How did it come out of the container? Where did it go into the waffle maker? Then what? How long did you keep the lid closed? Where you supposed to flip it over? How did you get the waffles out? It looked simple, but to someone from…oh, let’s say China, it must have been about as familiar as I would have felt trying to make dim sum.
Meanwhile, I was keeping an ear on the conversation of two guys at the next table, who appeared to be truckers. I had heard the word “Jesus” and “Bible” and assumed they were fervent Christians, so I avoided eye contact. One was flipping through a pile of magazines. Maybe they were having a bible study at the Quality Inn. Finally I was able to pull my attention away from the Chinese guy fumbling with the Made-in-China waffle maker and was able to listen in on the conversation next to me. “These born agains are fucking crazy,” the guy with the magazines said. “They don’t reason. They cain’t tell the difference between opinion and fact. They only know what they’ve been told to think by their preachers.”
“Ah know, ah know,” replied his companion. “They’re wreckin’ ar country. We used to be superior for our inventions and idee-urs but now everybody’s laughin’ at us.”
“Everybody but Saudi Arabia,” replied the first guy. “They probably love that we’ve stopped using our brains.”
This went on for some time and I was able to very subtly—I hope—get a look at the magazines, which included Popular Mechanics and National Geographic. So they must believe in evolution! Did you know that 42% of Americans believe God created the world in seven days? I can barely bring myself to type that, it’s so embarrassing. That’s an average, of course, and a much higher percentage of young people, urban dwellers, and yes—northerners believe in evolution.
I’m aware it can be irritating when I reproduce people’s accents in writing, but I did it above to make a point. Well, two points. First, I’m aware I’m prejudiced against southerners and second, there are southerners who don’t fit my stereotypes.
I had the urge to reach across and introduce myself, “Hi, I’m Anne! I’m from Minnesota, and I’d just like to say how thrilled I am to discover free thinkers in Mississippi!”
Instead I went next door to Starbucks and got a decent cup of coffee.
We headed north again, toward St. Louis. This would be a short day: we would only put around 400 miles on the odometer.
The drive was uneventful. We passed by Memphis, then veered northeast near the town of Marked Tree. We passed Osceola, Tennessee; Blytheville, Arkansas; Hayti, Missouri; then Portageville, Tiptonville, Sikeston, Cape Girardeau, Pocahontas, Ste. Genevieve, Prairie du Rocher, and Festus.
St. Louis was the first place I used Air B&B. We were staying in the upper part of a fourplex on Flad Avenue, in the Shaw neighborhood, chosen because it was a short walk to the Missouri Botanical Garden. Shaw appeared to be a historically African American neighborhood that was being gentrified.
We had been instructed to park behind the building, but a pack of bearded, plaid-shirted hipsters who resembled Neanderthals were unloading a truck in the alley. They smiled dumbly at us and clearly weren’t going to put themselves out to get out of our way, so we parked on the street.
I had received several texts from the Air B&B owner, Yuri, about gaining entrance, and it went without a hitch. There were two bedrooms, a bath and a kitchen that would be our base for exactly 17 hours.