Wednesday, April 22, 2009

On the route

First off, I am really pretty depressed about having heard nothing from UMass with regards to fellowships or assistantships. Apart from the money issue (which I could really use), I can only conclude that everyone's happy to make money off me, but no one has any confidence in my scholarship or my ability to be a good TA, which is, well, really depressing. I know one is not supposed to rely on external validation for self-worth, but this is getting pretty bad. No job, no money: no one thinks I can do anything for them. You would think I was a brain-dead sponge. Nope, can't use those library/computer/design/research/historian/writing/editing/carpentry skills.

I finished my first assigned area yesterday, and got a new one within an hour (and between areas, I went to the Depot to buy some railings for Tina's porch). I spent about 9.5 hours working on a rather large area today (I took it on my bike, as it is local) which spread from the hopping city center of Milton out into the hinterlands of Milton. You say, "Milton can't be that big!" and you are correct, but I saw parts of Milton I have never seen before.

The first area was right around my house (about 450 residences) and ranged from poor to middle-class. There were some ultra-paranoid people, and some very nice people, including a few who invited me into their houses, which I mostly had to refuse. A youngish grandmother was quite helpful, and the seniors at the senior housing were alright too. A naturalist wanted me to take her classes. Most folks just looked some combination of puzzled and irritated. A twentysomething girl and a 40ish man were downright hostile. But that was really no comparison for today.

I started out on North, which intersects Main and goes up toward Georgia and toward the top of Arrowhead Mountain Lake, which is a segment of the Lamoille River. The road starts out with a row of bland rectangular living units: some trailers, some modular, some just contemporary with beige siding. I guess there are a few older homes in the mix, but mostly post 1960. The landscape quickly changes into farmland, fewer houses, larger houses, and the Husky Plant. I saw a brick farm with carpenter gothic details around the roof area, but it was across the road and not in my area. It also had a huge cross attached to it.

Anyway, I came across the sheriff's house, and the sheriff. And I went along further and turned onto some other streets which were a bit more swanky. Not all, but some. Developments from the 80s I think, with a few older and a few newer interspersed. I happened upon one house, one guy (who came out to talk to me for a half hour or more) who gets by, by making pickles and mounting deer antlers. He heats his house and big separate workshop with wood burning boilers which run radiant heat through the floors (as my mom has), and he makes a point of getting the wood for free. Boy, he could talk! I liked him well enough though.

Further on down the road it got pretty rural--folks who'd rather not be found, I guess... although I wonder what the point is of putting a house down a long, winding and foresty drive, and then making it a big, white, ostentatious colonial revival. And then leaving a bunch of junk around the yard, and a rusted-out car, too. So I finished up the end of the road and turned back. Very close to North again, I encountered a friendly, barrel-chested bearded man who said, "Oh! I see we're getting counted!" and I had to say, "Oh, sorry, not yet!" (addresses only for now). I was happy to get a happy reception though. It seems rare.

Back onto North I had the weirdest and most annoying encounter. Only seconds away from a friendly family living in complete disarray, I found the biggest and most pretentious looking gentleman's (or gentlewoman's) horse farm. I could not find the address anywhere (not uncommon, sadly), and I was trying to find out if there were any additional houses on the property. Well, there was at least one adult there--the trunk of the Subie was open, and I heard footsteps bounding through the house. No one answered the door, or my calls. I saw a woman coming from the back of the farm in a big black SUV and I tried to wave her down (I jogged a little towards the car and waved) and she looked right at me, and drove right by! Well, needless to say I was REALLY MAD. I had half a mind to tap "does not exist" on my little screen there, but I didn't. I made an assumption about the address and moved on. But really. Even if I was a Jehovah's Witness or from the LDS, I mean they really couldn't just answer the door?

Out the window, they see a short female dressed in business casual on a bike with a tag on a lanyard and a handheld computer. Is that really terrifying? See first paragraph for possible connection. I've talked to, oh, probably over 100 people on my routes so far (and some have hid from me!) and you know I didn't start this job being wary of people, but maybe I am now!

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