May 1, 2018
Cold Iron - 187
My years as a college recruiter had, like any job, their share of adventures or, to be less sanguine, calamities. Traveling for twelve or more weeks in a year makes one vulnerable to the vicissitudes of both nature and human nature.
Speaking of nature, I experienced my first hurricane on Long Island spending, first, long hours in a darkened hotel room and then, nearly fatally bored, down in the lobby which was filled with people who had nowhere else to go for shelter. People tend to be pretty conversational at such times. Yes, the wind howls and, yes, trees can bend in ways that would make a yoga practitioner envious. Fortunately, those winds remained just under a hundred miles an hour making the damage less than predicted.
Once, when I was working for a Protestant seminary, I was visiting a pastor at the Korean Methodist Church in north Boston. We got on well and when he invited me to lunch I quickly agreed. Back then I was not quite as sophisticated on culinary matters as I am today, so as we sat down in a Korean restaurant located in an old house I was grateful that he ordered for both of us since the menu signage overhead was in Korean. Our first platter, however, was a beautiful display of raw fish – sushi. My mind raced through past newspaper columns on etiquette and how one goes about refusing the offer of a gracious host. I found nothing so I ate. It was delicious.
On long drives I became proficient at balancing a burger in one hand, a cup of coffee in the other with, perhaps, a Diet Coke (for additional wakefulness) in a nearby cup holder. Proficiency can have its failings as I discovered on a trip to St. John in New Brunswick, Canada. Booking into five hotels in five nights I was traveling light, the wardrobe down to the basics. So when the highway gave me a bump and coffee spilled onto my only pair of dress khakis I had a couple of problems. First, I could not check into my next hotel looking as though I’d just peed myself. Pride, you know. So I pulled off onto a small picnic area and, my eyes calculating the speed of oncoming cars, quickly pulled my pants off and slipped on a pair of jeans. My appointment that night could not be done either in jeans or coffee-sloshed khakis and so, once in my hotel room, I took a little bottle of shampoo and my hair brush, scrubbed the slacks vigorously, and dried them with a hair dryer. I was presentable.
Of course getting lost for the business traveler is what we do, especially in the pre-GPS days. One night I was on the Massachusetts Turnpike heading into Boston for a high school college night. Getting off at the proper exit but a bit confused, I headed straight onto an on-ramp and back onto the pike. Caught in traffic, I never made it to that event. Worse still, I repeated that mistake the next year with similar results. Finally, on the third year I made it – thanks to a couple of fellow recruiters I saw at my hotel who let me ride with them.
A bit more embarrassing, though, was the afternoon in New Jersey when a group of us left a morning program at a high school and, as often happened, traveled in a group to the next high school program – Hopatcong High School. Unfortunately, I was the lead car with everyone following me and all I had was a sketchy map of the school’s location. Also unfortunately, the area was an upscale development with lots of curving streets and cul-de-sacs. We wandered, we circled, we turned left and right until I turned down a street and found myself facing a driveway with a large chain across the entrance. Getting out of my car I kind of shouted and kind of gestured that I was hopelessly lost and watched as everyone tried to turn around on the narrow street. To this day I have no idea how I got to Hopatcong High School – but I did.
Perhaps the strangest incident happened at the start of a week-long recruiting trip. I was in Horseheads, New York, north of Elmira and west of Binghamton. It was a Monday and I had a college night that night. I checked into my hotel early in the afternoon. My car, a college station wagon, was parked next to a large berm, above which was a highway. As I walked to my car later to go to the program I noticed the rear window was covered with rain drops, although I didn’t think it had rained. Getting closer, those raindrops turned out to be the speckled pattern of a shattered tempered glass window. Either the window had been shot at or else a rock had come down from the highway above. Sighing, I got into the car but as I shut the door the air pressure thump caused the entirety of the rear window to fall into the car – glass everywhere including into my numerous boxes of booklets and pamphlets. I spent that evening wiping the glass off of my booklets and pamphlets before giving them to prospective students. I also spent the rest of the week looking like Joe From The Back Hills with a sheet of plastic duct-taped over the window.
It’s easy to say that, in retrospect, these somewhat painful incidents were really funny. In truth, though, they were funny at the time, too.
G.K. Wuori© 2018
Photoillustration by the author