I’d love to claim to be a true-blue agrarian and to earn all of my living selling our one cash crop, limestone, and bartering with locust pods. Such is not the case, however. Several times a week, your faithful correspondent is compelled by economic necessity to travel from the wilds of rural Lafayette County, Missouri to the suburban smoothness of Johnson County, Kansas. At times, this journey is rather like visiting another country.
As I walked into the college on Monday of this week, an unwelcome and unexpected sight greeted me. Opening the door to my office, I saw water dripping from the ceiling. After making a quick phone call to the facilities people, I cleared the papers from my office mate’s desk in case the leak spread. Then, having strategically positioned waste cans, I sat down to watch the water flow and to prepare for class.
Later in the day, I pulled file drawers out, scrounged trash bags to protect my diplomas and better books, and repositioned our printer away from the spreading trickle of rainwater. I don’t mention any of this seeking commendation as some sort of leaky-roof hero. Frankly, this sort of defensive action seemed pretty unremarkable.
My colleagues, however, seem to respond differently. Over the past three days, I’ve heard a good bit of hand-wringing about mold. Apparently, Nathan and I are doomed to a life of emphysema and worse. Various walkers-by have opined on the great danger we face from water flowing around light fixtures. It seemed to me that the electricians who visited us might have wanted to kill the relevant breakers before they killed us, but I’m sure my English-teacher friends know better about the perils of electrical doom.
This morning, the president of the college came in and said, “We’ve got to get you out of here.” It sounded like he was about to mobilize the Coast Guard to evacuate me. Perhaps the operation will involve helicopters and hovercraft. All in all, though, it seems to me that moving out, right at the end of the semester, would be far too much of a pain to countenance.
Reflecting on these exchanges, I’m convinced that there are two basic responses to events of this sort. The rural response almost has to be a can-do, roll-with-the-punches one. When you live in the sticks, you’d better be able to pull your own vehicle out of the mud and throw tarps over a leaky roof. Helplessness simply isn’t much of an option if you don’t want to be broke or utterly devastated.
In my office, I’m seeing the can’t-do attitude that can survive in the suburban/urban world. To be fair, there are plenty of can-do people in the ‘burbs and urbs, but the can’t-dos can survive there. They can pontificate on various threats, a few of which might be real, and wait for other people to rescue them from the vicissitudes of life.
The fact is, part of me thinks the whole hole-in-the-roof episode is kind of cool. (Granted, it’s the part of me that knows he won’t have to pay the bill for fixing the thing.) While I appreciate the trained and capable people who can do the things that I can’t do, whether it be fixing my car or building the roads I drive it on, I also value the measure of self-reliance that I bring to life. It’ll turn an inconvenience like this into an adventure. Life should be an adventure.