When Jimmy Stewart went running down the streets of Bedford Falls in It’s a Wonderful Life, dashing from person to person, store to tavern, only to discover that he never existed . . . well, some of us can relate.
The Springfield furniture store advertised “free delivery,” and I assume that meant anywhere within reasonable driving distance. I bought the chair, swiped my car, declined the lifetime guarantee, and told them where to deliver my new recliner. The clerk thanked me for my business and said I’d be receiving a call about the delivery on the following day. So far, so good.
“We can deliver your chair tomorrow. Just give us your address.”
“Is that in Illinois?”
“I’m pretty sure. They keep sending me income tax forms and the plates on my car say it’s the land of Lincoln.” I gave them the rest of my address and early the next morning the phone rang again.
“Mr. Bradbury? We’re in Jacksonville and are having trouble finding your house.”
“That’s because I don’t have a house there.”
“You live on Arenzville Street in Jacksonville, right?”
“No, I live on State Street in Arenzville. Jacksonville is one of our suburbs. Just keep driving.”
“Our GPS doesn’t list you.”
“You mean I don’t exist?”
“Oh! Wait a minute! Now it’s brought up Arenzville, but the streets aren’t marked.”
“We only have three thru streets. I’m on the middle one.”
“But we can’t find you on the GPS.”
“Pull in to the Jiffy Stop, ask around, someone will know me. We all know each other. Just ask for the guy who keeps forgetting to pay for his gas.”
Thirty minutes later. “Mr. Bradbury, we’re in Arenzville but we can’t find State Street.”
“Where are you?”
“We’re parked in front of the post office.”
“Stick your head out the window and look west. That’s me waving on my front porch.”
By the time the two guys had off-loaded the chair they looked as if they’d been sent on a mission to Siberia. I had to give them directions to Springfield. The hinterlands of Arenzville, Chapin, Franklin, Waverly, Dosh and the like resemble foreign countries to anyone from a bigger town. I once ordered pizzas for my play cast at Triopia and the guy working in the Jacksonville restaurant had no idea how to get to the school. I told him that we were the only thing colored blue between Jacksonville and Meredosia. The poor guy was flummoxed and I had to ask a stage mother to run in to town.
The baggage handlers on the Spirit of Peoria riverboat neglected to pick up my bag one day this summer and left it at Starved Rock. When they sent their delivery van a few days later the driver called to say that she’d “finally made it to Arenzville,” but couldn’t find my house. I tried to be plain: “The town has only three streets running all the way through town. I’m on the middle one. I’ll be standing out in the yard wearing the same clothing as when I got off the boat. I only have three pair of pants and you have two of them.” I dread the day when I have something delivered in the winter. It’s awfully cold to be standing out in the yard all morning.
I once had better luck when United Airlines lost my luggage on a return trip from London. I left my address with the baggage department of the St. Louis airport and the guy in the back room shouted, “I know where he lives. I deliver there all the time.” There are advantages to being a frequent-flier-luggage-loser.
I’m not paranoid. . . really. . . but after enough Twilight Zone episodes I’m beginning to wonder if we actually exist out here.