Imagine being stuck somewhere along I-70 in the middle of Kansas late at night. There’s a truck stop, and it’s a good thing to put gas in the car although there’s enough to coast home on fumes. The drive – 200 miles west, and now 200 miles east with a poetry reading in between – went swimmingly well although the driver does wish she didn’t eat quite so many enchiladas in Hutchinson. While the car sucks the gas from pump, the driver thinks well of both going to the bathroom and buying more water to drink. What could possibly go wrong?
Keys can tumble out from an unsuspecting purse, and the smug little car, neatly locked, could now hold in its lap said keys.
Thankfully, there’s AAA, a membership which I purchased this year on Kelley’s good advice. It would only take AAA about 30-40 minutes to send help. In the meantime, I got to experience Kansas from the vantage point of gift shelves, and this is what I saw: Oz, Oz and more Oz. Big Oz. Little Oz. Witches in pink or black. Dorothy free and clear, or locked in a snow globe. Scarecrows comparing Dorothy to crazy women who screw up their lives. T-shirts from Toto about how he took all the money. Cowardly lions on shot glasses. Since Oz is kind of the opposite of Kansas, I begin to wonder why anyone in Kansas sells it at all.
At the same time, all this stuff is fascinating, full of bling and shine, drama and surrealistic bizzaro scenarios. The beer mugs, welcome mats, postcards, sweatshirts and statue-ettes of all sizes overwhelmed me with a place not far from here, only accessible through particularly bad weather. The more I look at it, the more I wonder if I should bring some of it home with me.
Luckily, just at the point that I was actually starting to consider buying any of this stuff, a big wrecker pulled up, and I run outside to meet Junior, a man far older than any wizard, but equipped with many manner of long metal poles of various sizes and with variously-shaped hooked ends. It wasn’t that I had the power within me all along to go home (I didn’t even have a hanger I could use), but I did have that Triple-A card, and I could hold one pole while Junior used another to tap against my dangling keys until he hit the unlock button, and I heard that lovely beep that said, Yes, you can go home again.