Kansas Incongruous

Dust“I’m gonna need the police at 200 Crawford Avenue. Domestic abuse in room 320.”

It’s 8 p.m. and we’re at the most active motel in Kansas City, probably the most active motel in the entire state of Kansas. There are more than thirty teenage female softball players running around the lobby filling up bags with ice and discussing athletic subjects at a grotesque volume. There is a constant flurry of activity as people storm in and out the door, most of them talking on phones.

Also, the police are coming.

The only five people standing still are Collin, me, the two men in front of us and the woman working the desk, who, though moving, is doing so with the imperceptible slowness of a sniper as she prepares their room. She is misplacing priorities by telling us the details of the evening’s events rather than handing over keys and pointing us to a room. “There are two big guys beating on a girl in room 320.” She leans in, “and apparently, they threw a toaster at her.”

One of the guys at the desk shakes his head in irritation, exhaustion and confusion. “There was a toaster in the room?”

“There ain’t no toasters in any room,” she says. None of us wants to ask why two big guys would bring a toaster into a motel only to throw it at a woman, but mostly because we are afraid that the consequent deliberation and answer would result in another thirty minute wait. We all nod politely and smile and hope that she hands them the key soon. The men in front of us don’t look like people who would stand by while a woman is hit by anyone, but if their drive today has been anything like ours, then their lethargy is understood.

What makes this motel experience more exceptional is that is comes after a twelve-hour drive through the state of Kansas. Driving through Kansas is not infuriating and offensive like driving on the Pennsylvania turnpike. It’s not beautiful or frightening like driving through the Colorado mountains. It is nothing. There are no attributes, positive or negative, to driving through Kansas. Nothing happens. We encountered maybe two barns every hundred miles, and were treated with anti-abortion billboards every sixty miles or so to annoy away the overwhelming monotony of endless fields of corn.

So, walking into a motel where hell has broken loose in the form of toaster abuse and softball vixens is dizzyingly incongruous. We walked into this motel twenty minutes ago with a plan: get key, drop bags, go to grocery store, buy lunch meat, cheese and beer. But our simple plan has been put on hold in lieu of motel lobby drama. As we wait and stamp our feet into the floor, the police arrive and the flurry of excitement is reawakened. A man approaches the police, evidently one of the toaster throwers, though he is small and wearing a fanny pack. He steps outside with them willingly while a young girl bursts into tears nearby.

Since my brain has tried to come to terms with my frustration, especially the delay of beer and turkey, I come to this conclusion: This is Kansas’ reward to anyone who drives through the state. This incongruously dramatic scene is a visitor’s reward for the extreme boredom while driving through the only state that is actually “flatter than a pancake.” I smile in understanding and almost admire the surreptitious, though clever, tactic.

The woman is just finishing the paperwork for the guys and has their key in hand. I can see the turkey sandwich I am going to make, taste the Corona I am going to gulp. On top of all of this, delayed gratification! I am beginning to think that Kansas is a genius! But then, one of the men makes a mistake.

“Is there any towels in the room?” he asks.

We all groan as she stops what she’s doing to look through several sheets of paper. “Hold on a minute, let me call the other manager and find out.”

Almost, Kansas, almost.

What state (or country) has emotionally jerked you around?

  1. #1 by Andy on August 13, 2012 - 8:00 pm

    I spent a summer in Kansas doing a college internship. One of my most memorable days was being lost and driving down what was very generously referred to as a gravel “road” and coming across a sign which reads “gravel road ends”. About 15 minutes later, I found myself hiking to the nearest house (two miles away) to call a tow truck to pull me out of the mud. About two hours later, I found myself repeating that exact scenario with the exact same tow truck. Hilarity ensued.

    After that summer, I’d concluded that I’d enjoyed all the Kansas that one lifetime ever requires.

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