It seems that a bureaucratic hierarchy has emerged:
1. To get a cell phone, I need two out of three of the following: line of credit, form of ID without Social Security number, form of ID with Social Security number.
2. To get a form of ID with a Social Security number, I need to apply for a state ID.
3. To apply for a state ID, I need two forms of ID, one of which has my Social Security number on it.
I have the damn number memorized. Why can't they just look me up?
Also: the LCT to Wellington leaves every hour (and is surprisingly reliable on weekdays), but goes from Wellington to Oberlin every three. It took ten minutes for me to get to Wellington and fifteen more to conclude my buisness. Erg.
Oh well. I was overdue for a walk, and the weather was good. And the great thing about having classes that meet only a couple times a week is that I have plenty of time to waste on adventures like this. For a town whose downtown consists of an intersection with six pizza joints, Wellington is a lively place. It's no Oberlin, but it's got spunk. It's like what Elyria would be if Elyria had a soul. Local buisnesses. Brick storefronts. An impressively steepled Methodist church.
They aren't kidding when they call it the Oberlin bubble. Oberlin isn't really Ohio. Oberlin is loud and snarky and intellectual and tie-dyed, and chill in a cloud-of-potsmoke sort of way. It more resembles a commune of New York and D.C. and Frisco exiles--probably because that's more or less what it is. Ohio, on the other hand, is a land of farmers and the descendants of farmers--a place where the roads between towns were once so sparse that they were all named after the places they go (Oberlin-Elyria, Medina-Norwalk, Peck-Wadsworth, the list goes on and on.) It's a humble but proud place. Has all the artifacts of suburbia: the strip mall, the Golden Arches, the roaming packs of bored teenagers--but there are clearance blowout x-travaganzas on tractors at Sears, and the cashier at CVS runs through the whole "thank you, you're welcome, have a nice day, you too" script with great earnestness. Such frankness is strange considering that Ohio is not a rich place. A lot of people are poor here, but stubborn--too stubborn to age, too stubborn to die. And damned they'll be if their financial situations impede them from being polite. They're not like New York poor people, or (God forbid) New Jersey poor people. There's a Grapes of Wrath hardiness to them, and an immense, almost enviable humility.
And picking at the discount aisle in every supermarket are Real Ohioans: forlorn, prematurely aged women in oversized Wellington Dukes sweatshirts who brighten up at the discovery of a new flavor of ice cream.
Ice cream, the great equalizer. If I could paint anything I wanted,a poor middle-aged woman holding a pint of ice cream would be high on my list. Ice cream--once the delicacy of giants--now transcends class, transcends income. There is always money for ice cream.
The miles and miles and miles of farmland--they still exist out here. The slow encroachment of suburbia has nothing over these distances. Roads run straight as far as the eye can see, along acres of silos and swaying grass (or in winter, pure white, as if the earth had been blotted out from creation entirely). Civilization is so sparse in some places that government consists of a neighborhood meeting house. Pittsfeld Township, for example--it is the place spoken of in myth and legend as the Ass End of Nowhere. I somehow end up there every time I take a long trek and get lost.
(sung to the tune of the South Park theme)
Goin' down to Pittsfield gonna have myself a time
(Nothing nothing nothing nothing
Nothing nothing nothing nothing)
Goin' down to Pittsfield gonna have myself a time
Tried the Coca-Cola vending machine hack on a bunch of dilapidated vending machines by a dry goods store. It didn't work, but it crashed the software on one of the older machines, netting me a free soda. Score!
Spent a while in the toy train store--goodness, that place is like a museum. They had an electric train track with parts from the 1920s, and a good-as-new Back to the Future action figure in its original blister package. (Copyright 1986.) I didn't know places like that still existed.
I gave in to nostalgia and bought a package of microwave White Castle hamburgers at Bizarro-Missler's (the local supermarket that, like Missler's, was taken over by SuperValu, but kept its original name). It had nothing to do with the Harold and Kumar movie and everything to do with the fact that I haven't eaten them since I was eleven. It was a stupid idea, but little me was all like mamaaaa wo yao chi White Castlllllle, and I couldn't resist the fuzziness.
Why do we get all fuzzy with nostalgia when we think of our own childhoods? It's not like they were particularly fuzzy times for most of us--lots of confusion and frustration and fear. It's strange that I look back on little me and think, "ooh, so cute." I mean, we react that way to kids because of our paternal or maternal instincts--but does that mean I'm seeing my former self as my son?
There is no lonelier sound than the whistle of a train. Not the melodic choo-chooooo that the old trains used to make (or so I'm told), but the baleful series of WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAARNGs that modern trains make, followed by the familiar chugachugathunkachuga. From afar, it sounds like the death-cry of a forgotten god. So mighty a beast, yet so worn and old, stumbling through tunnels of weathered concrete. That's it--that's the sound of suburbia. Everything that can be felt about life on the fringe of the city can be expressed in that long, mournful dirge.