Saturday, December 13, 2008

That Show-Me State of Mind

When I was a kid I wondered why Missouri would call itself "The Show-Me State." Why pick a phrase that obviously ended with "...because I'm too dumb to figure it out for myself?"

I didn't ask anybody about the "show me state," figuring that I'd find out someday. Finally I heard: "Show me" means "We're sturdy folk, not easily swayed. If you want me to believe something, you'll have to show me why."

This strikes me as not a whole lot better. It's like saying "We're so proud of our rut that we put up curtains."

I once went to Missouri to work on an article. It was Jefferson City, the Lower 48's answer to Wasilla, Alaska. As the little propeller plane from Kansas City pulled up to the terminal, there was a crowd of adults and children, one deep, lined up with their noses to the window.

It turned out that they weren't excited about the relatives arriving; they were excited about the plane. There are airstrips in the Peruvian jungle where the locals are more blasé.

The finest hotel in town had only four guests, and yet they still put me in a room with a broken toilet. I phoned the desk, but I was too tired to change rooms. Besides, I just had to take the lid off the tank and pull up on the chain.

I'd forgotten my alarm clock, so I asked for a wake-up call. They forgot.1 I was late to my interviews, which were moderated by an overhyped overarticulate woman who couldn't do too much to help. I couldn't get her to back off. It was awful.

And when I got back to the hotel, exhausted, the toilet was still broken.

That did it. I phoned the desk and suggested, with some emphasis, that the toilet should have been fixed during the day.

The desk lady was shocked. "But I thought you liked the room!"

The manager came. A plumber came. The thing was fixed. And for the next two dreary miserable days, everywhere I went in the hotel I felt eyes boring into the back of my head.

The whole trip was like standing outside in the rain.

Then I found out that Amex Travel had soaked my employer by putting me on a one-way first-class ticket out of town.

Now I've got nothing against Missouri on account of one lousy visit.2 I should've brought my alarm clock. Besides, as in all trips, it is the mind of the traveler that makes the experience.

Even so, I have no wish to go back. All I know about Missouri is what they showed me.

1It seems Missourians don't ask for such services. It would be putting people to too much trouble.
2The article was lousy too, but that wasn't Missouri's fault. I did not cover myself in glory.

No comments: