© Another Day in the Country
Without awareness, I often drive down country roads counting telephone poles. It started when I was a kid and we were on a long drive across Kansas in the middle of summer.
Hot and miserable, I’d sit in the back seat of my parents car and count telephone poles to pass the time, mile after mile.
As time passed, those familiar poles had a different name. No longer telephone poles carrying magic wires that allowed us to communicate across the miles, the same tall poles became light poles carrying electricity to every nook and cranny of the county.
Because old habits die hard, I still call them telephone poles — and I still catch myself counting.
Driving down Quail Creek Road, heading home, it was quiet in the car and all of a sudden I realized that I was doing it again: 22, 23, 24, 25….
Right then and there, I began noticing all the connections and wires branching off the main lines, going to rural homes. We all know what happens when a storm hits and one of those poles goes down: The countryside becomes pitch dark at night without yard lights shining up into the heavens.
At times like these we finally become aware of how brilliant the stars shine forth, and also how interdependent we are as tiny specks of humanity on a rapidly spinning planet flying through space.
Not only is our existence miraculous, but the web of conveniences that we now consider necessities is colossal.
I stopped counting poles when I almost hit a pothole and had to quickly dodge it so that my car wouldn’t be out of alighnment again, or even blow a tire.
And of course, I complained.
“What? Did the highway guys run out of asphalt right here at the biggest hole?” I grumbled. “Remember what this road was like when we moved here from California?”
“I think it was worse then,” my sister said. “Back then, there were no places to dodge the holes.”
We began to talk about all the things in this country of ours that we take for granted, like having smooth, wide, dust-free roads, gracefully moving across the landscape in all the directions we want to go.
And then, how we take for granted that an approaching car knows the rules that have been set up, driving on “their side” of the road. The wider the road, the more amazing the cooperation it takes, from hundreds of thousands of people.
I’ve been in third-world countries where you’d see a mailbox that someone may or may not pick up mail from. Public telephones may or may not be connected with anything but static. Roads just stopped at washed-out bridges, and probably wouldn’t be navigable until the folks in the village managed to build a way across the stream, or the stream dried up.
How wonderful that in this state we have government departments set up to watch out for these roads, attempting to keep them safe. How grateful we should be that in this county, some magical group that we don’t even think about or pay attention to unless we have a complaint repairs bridges, plan more efficient routes, and keep the signs readable — even though there are a few idiots about who think it is fun to shoot at signs for target practice.
It’s not that we mean to be ungrateful for all the privileges that we enjoy on another day in this country. Sometimes, we’ve a tendency to be like kids who’ve lived at home with Mom and Pop too long, taking for granted that there will always be a roof over our head and a meal on the table!