Some things aren’t meant to be

We all do things that don’t turn out the way we planned. And on some days it’s not just a single thing. It’s everything. And that is what happened last week, when a very valiant attempt was made to attend a reading of poetry sponsored by the Birchwood Center for Art and Folk Life.

6-25 Page 4A.inddHarriet Richie and Tom Johnson, two talented regional writers, were presenting a reading of love poems in honor of Valentine’s Day at the Reserve, a gated community in the scenic area of S.C. Highway 11.

Although I’d never visited the Reserve proper, I nevertheless assumed there would be no problem in getting there.

McKinney’s Chapel is, however, a familiar destination and I — wrongly, as it turned out — thought that it was located inside the gates of the Reserve, because I’d never paid attention to the name at the entrance and also had the mistaken idea there was only one gated community in the area.

This is a prime example of how deeply we learn to regret not checking our facts. If you think you already know something you don’t bother to consider the possibility of being mistaken.

The event began at 5 p.m. I left home at 4:15, as I wanted to arrive early.

The afternoon sun shines directly into the eyes of drivers heading west on Highway 11. I really couldn’t see and missed the road sign for Robert Jones Road. This was the road I needed to turn on, so I thought, to reach my destination. There was no way to change my destiny, as even if I’d seen the sign and turned I would still have been lost.

I kept driving west and began to get uneasy after I crossed the river, the Oconee County sign, passed the entrance to Devils Fork State Park and reached Tamassee School, which I’d never seen.

After turning around, I drove east on Highway 11, thinking I must somehow have missed the turn. I saw nowhere to stop for directions until I passed a small shopping area with a deli. There was a truck pulled in the parking lot and a crew of lawn maintenance men preparing to crank up.

I pulled over and asked for directions to McKinney Chapel. They were all Hispanic, and only one appeared to speak English, but he had a lot of trouble understanding me. Finally he said, “Señora, go to the stop sign and turn right,” gesturing to the west.

So I headed west again and passed Tamassee School. After driving a little further, instinct said, “This is still wrong.”

I turned around and headed east once more. The gas tank light came on, but I drove on. After I’d decided to give up and go home, I saw the sign I’d been searching for and turned on to Robert Jones Road. Finally, I saw the gated entrance. I stopped, and a guard came out. The sign posted on the guard house said his name was Paul. He wore a uniform and badge that made him look sort of like a Texas Ranger. He was very polite and asked where I was going. I told him I was going to the poetry reading. He looked puzzled and said, “I’m not familiar with that. Are you visiting someone?”

“No,” I replied. “I’m here to attend the poetry reading sponsored by the Birchwood Center. I know I’m very late but at least wanted to make an appearance.”

By this time it was 5:45, but I thought it was the least I could do to show up even though it would be a very late arrival.

“I’m sorry,” said Paul. “I don’t know anything about that. “What is a poetry reading?”

“Poetry, Poetry,” I said. He still looked puzzled. So I spelled it. “P-O-E-T-R-Y.”

“Oh”, he said. “I thought you said poultry reading.”

I envisioned Foghorn Leghorn reciting “Roses are Red,” but didn’t find it plausible.

I’m aware that some people have trouble understanding my accent. I pronounce poetry as “poor tree.” Now, how you get poultry out of that I don’t know. By now, Paul and I had developed a relationship. I thought he was courteous and professional, and he thought I might be a terrorist. Or at the very least, insane.

He called the clubhouse to see if they knew of any poetry reading being held. They did not. Finally I accepted the inevitable and surrendered. It was already 6 o’clock, and the poultry reading would have been over.

So Paul took pity on me, allowed me to pass through the security gate so I could turn around and gave me directions back to Highway 178 as he made it fairly clear he thought I should not be out alone. And he was right.

I had just enough gas to get back to the intersection where Highway 178 intersects Highway 11. I pulled up to the pumps at the station/convenience store/café. Gas was $1.89 a gallon for unleaded. Just as I opened the car door to go inside to pay, a man sauntered out with a long pole and a plastic number. He changed the sign to $1.99 right before my very eyes. It was the perfect end to a perfect afternoon.

I hope to goodness I’ve learned my lesson. My track record is not a promising one, as I’ve been lost all over the southeastern and northeastern parts of the United States. But I do pledge to find out where the Reserve is located. At least I will be able to find that.