Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Blocking Roads & Breaking Hearts

For eight primetime midday hours this past Friday and Saturday, the intersection outside of the Logansport City Building was taken over by volunteers in neon vests and utility belts organizing the latest roadblock fundraiser for the Logansport Children's Choir. When we ended up one volunteer short on Friday afternoon, I was torn from my marathon Gossip Girl watching and forced into Director's Kid duty for three hours. During my time with the roadblock, I learned a lot of things: the sun shines brighter from the city-building side of the road despite the shadows from the buildings being longer, the tar that fills up the cracks on your average city street is really much stickier than it looks, sending a mass Snapchat of yourself in the middle of a busy road engenders surprisingly little concern. Most importantly, though, it gave me an all-new picture of what a strange place Logansport really is.

Let's begin with the music I heard people playing as they drove through town on this fine summer's day. For those unfamiliar with this style of fundraiser, I'll clarify now that, in a roadblock, volunteers stand in the road at a stoplight and collect small bills and loose change from drivers as donations to their cause. Doing this for three hours, you hear the radio stations of choice of a whole lot of people.

Now, the size of Logansport being what it is (18,396), there obviously aren't a ton of choices available to us in non-Sirius XM radio entertainment. Our two local FM stations are Hoosier Country 103.7 (not kidding) and Mix 102, which used to be cool but then started playing oldies. Radio stations from nearby towns expand our options a good bit, but, in my experience, everyone who's anyone listens to the always hip Lafayette station, Z 96.5. Z 96.5 plays top 40 hits. Songs by Ke$ha! Nationally syndicated countdowns hosted by Ryan Seacrest! Everyone in town must listen to this station, right?

Wrong. In my entire time standing in the middle of East Broadway - let's put it this way -  I heard "Blurred Lines" one time. Do you know how unusual it is, in the United States, on August 9, 2013, to hear "Blurred Lines" only one time in a progression of what had to be several hundred radio-blasting cars? Upon hearing this first and last evidence of top 40 pop music near the end of my shift, it hit me that something strange was afoot in the listening habits of the people of Logansport. I heard what seemed like at least nine thousand individual, ear- and soul-destroying country songs. I heard a lifetime's worth of what Daddy Yankee taught me is "reggaeton." I heard a serious deep cut from an old Tupac record from the pickup truck of an elderly man. But only one time all day did I hear pop music. What even is this city?

Things got even weirder when you consider the types of vehicles from which the people of Logansport were tossing money into my collection bucket. Among my favorites of the day was a tiny compact stuffed to the point of absolute absurdity. Each of the seven barely-English-speaking Burmese denizens of the clown car gave at least two dollars, which both A) was great for the children's choir and B) made me somewhat concerned that they thought donation was required to get through the intersection. Great, too, was the driver of the enormous trash truck who threw some change down from ten feet up as he forced me practically back to the sidewalk with the width of his vehicle. By far the greatest vehicle of the day, though, was the BACKHOE that came lumbering down the street at a cool 10 miles per hour whose driver tossed a few dollars into my bucket without setting foot on the brake or, apparently, noticing my shameless staring at him for driving down Logansport's main street at midday in a backhoe.

But weirder than the listening choices or the vehicles of the people of Logansport, of  course, were the people themselves. On four occasions, I walked up to people's open windows with my bucket at the ready to discover that they were not digging for change but, in fact, texting. On another, a driver leaned out his window and "HEY"ed at me to get my attention, which I would probably have found quite rude were he not giving my bucket its first and only ten dollar bill. I discovered that an almost alarming number of people apparently have reason to drive past the city building two or even three times in a one- or two-hour span on a Friday afternoon, but that only one of those is awesome enough to donate to the children's choir on both passes through the intersection. I found that way more of my former high school classmates are in town right now than I would ever have guessed - and that three hours of standing in the middle of the road in 90 degree heat leaves me capable of noticing only one of them waving at me. To the car full of LHS Class of 2010 graduates who waved quite nicely at me and got no response until you were about a block down the road and I realized who you were....sorry.

(To the guy about my age who stared at me for 10 straight minutes while sitting in the back seat of his parents' SUV, puffing away on a cigarette, and flicking ashes into the occasional open window driving past while waiting for your dad to return from whatever business he had in the city building...you are frightening.)

Ultimately, the roadblock can be summed up in the words of a guy who donated some change about halfway through my shift. I saw him sort of chuckle and start to lower his window from a few feet off, and when he came to a full stop in front of the green light in my lane, I'll admit I had to laugh. "I just want you to know," he said, tossing his money into my collection bucket, "that this is only because you look so excited."

There it pretty much is, people. A bored, easily-sunburn-able college kid, standing in the middle of the road in a neon pink safety vest, ill-chosen electric blue running shorts, comically oversized sunglasses, and a rhinestone-encrusted headband, is what the city of Logansport grants its organizations as a valuable fundraising tool. This town is almost as strange as the roadblock tan lines I currently have across my right bicep, in a triangle across my chest (thanks, V-Neck Pocket Tee), and in patches all over the sun-facing side of my face.

For the remainder of my time in Logansport this summer, you can find me tending to my fading sunburn, counting the surprisingly large sums of money that the roadblock brought in, or, for the rest of today, celebrating my mother's birthday. You should all help us with this last task by sending my mother emoji-filled birthday texts like my sister's friends did. After all, nothing says "I love you" like a tiny picture of cake.

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