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Monday, March 27, 2006


I hated my job with a passion, but there were a few things about it that were really nice.  One was Brian, my boss, who was also my friend.  He was a native of Florida and a graduate of Duke University, which really made him stand out in Lewiston, Idaho, even more so than I did as a California native and graduate of a state college.  He was startlingly handsome.  I'd noticed that first thing during the interview and it made me even more nervous but after working with him for a few days it was clear that there was no troublesome chemistry between us.  I say troublesome because I was married.  But Brian was not at all my type; he was preppy-looking, with wire-rimmed glasses and expensive clothes.  He was a real city person.  So was I, but I was committed to becoming a true Idahoan and had thrown myself enthusiastically into this task.

One afternoon Brian and I had an errand to do.  We were to drive up to Moscow and meet with one of our suppliers, a crusty eccentric engineer named Bill G.  I'd always gotten along well enough with Bill G. when he brought the circuit boards we purchased from him, but he made me nervous.  He didn't seem to like most people.

Brian and I drove separately because I lived just ten miles up the highway from Bill G. and it made no sense to drive back the opposite way to Lewiston after our meeting.  Bill G. served us lunch, and then he took us on a tour of his house.  He led us up some narrow, creaky stairs and suddenly we were in a library.  There were bookshelves, countless tall bookshelves, and I roamed amongst them uninvited while sighing and exclaiming over the titles.  Bill G. grinned to see me this way, like a kid, and he seemed to thaw.  We walked around the shelves and compared notes on what we'd read.

It was memorable to me because I felt like such an oddball in Idaho at times.  In Moscow, the university town, I fit in all right but in some of the small logging towns (like the one my husband had grown up in) I was really out of place and while Lewiston was a good-sized town, it was predominantly blue-collar.  Yes, there was the transplant Brian who had graduated from Duke, but his atrocious writing skills betrayed the fact that his girlfriends had done most of his work for him.  He might have been more open-minded and worldly than most of the people we worked with, but he was no reader. This trip with its unexpected revelation that Bill G. was a fellow misfit oddball bookworm gave me hope that there were more people like me out there, even in northern Idaho.

Why did the word "gravel" make me remember all of this?  When Brian and I left Bill G's house, I convinced him to drive the extra ten miles out of his way (he lived back in Lewiston) to see where I lived.  He followed me down the highway and when we turned onto the gravel road where we lived I slowed down.  Brian had lagged quite a bit behind me and was closing the gap and as I looked in my rear view window I laughed to see him still driving highway speed on the gravel road.  He was engulfed in a cloud of dust.  I felt like I was of two worlds, or becoming so.  I had always felt too "city" and "stuck up" among the people who'd grown up in small rural towns, but I wasn't as pathetic as Brian.  I knew to slow down on a gravel road.

Comments on "gravel"


Blogger TheaLeticia said ... (6:50 PM) : 

I really enjoyed reading this.

I lived in Idaho for three years and certainly experienced the oddball phenomenon you describe.

I think the final image of the gravel road is a wonderful representation of both belonging and a sort of rural nostalgia.

I don't know what the policy is on suggestions but if you were to pursue this piece I would love to read more descriptions of the scenery as you drive up these roads. It is such a strinkingly beautiful context for your reflection!


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