Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Friday, September 2nd

I don't think we even realized it was September until this day. At this point, even eight hours of sleep wasn't enough because there was no way to relax. Not knowing about your living space is one thing. Not knowing about the status of friends is another. Not knowing how bad off New Orleans as a whole was going to get was the most frustrating.

On our way into St. Louis I kept the radio on whatever NPR or ESPN channel I could find. In the towns that carried neither, I stumbled upon other talk programs. People were bashing New Orleans! Why didn't someone do this, why didn't someone do that. One lady called in to this program in Tulsa and blamed the people stuck in N.O. for not leaving. It was infuriating.

What many people don't realize is that when evacuations were called it was only the 26th. If people were waiting for a paycheck slated to come on the 1st, they weren't going to see it. If they were waiting for a government check, like many people in the 9th Ward were, well, good luck with that. When you take for granted that you can hop on a computer and make reservations at a Hilton 500 miles away, it's easy to forget what it's like to be a have-not. I remembered having only $100 in my checking account. What if I didn't have credit cards? $100 wasn't going to buy that much gas.

We finally got into St. Louis around 5 p.m. We were excited to see my family, since they were really the first familiar faces from home we'd seen since we left. The excitement quickly dissipated, though. We were promised a room to ourselves, but what we weren't told was that it was 10 x 10, already filled with odds and ends (it was my parents' friend Bob's office) and it'd have a single-bed-sized air mattress in it. No problem, we thought.

It was a problem. When two people are used to sleeping in a king-sized bed, downsizing to a single isn't good for the relationship. Between us fighting over covers, falling off the bed four inches to the floor, and our dogs wiggling in, we were getting testy by the second night.

To make matters worse, it seemed as if we were there more on Bob's good will than Ann's. We got the vibe that we weren't really welcome, that she didn't want us in her house. Nothing was said outright, but demeanor says a lot, and I could tell she was roped into letting us stay there. We avoided her, but we were in Belleville, which isn't exactly a bustling place. For three days we did nothing but listen to my uncle bitch about the overall situation in New Orleans, read, and hope for when it was time to go to the grocery.

To make matters even worse, we were essentially kicked out of the house on Sunday night. Ann made arrangements for us to stay at her son's house, which turned out to be 30 miles away. The only comparison would be if you went to New Orleans to stay at someone's house and wound up having to travel to Slidell to sleep. It just didn't make any sense to me, and when we got settled in and were alone, I told Michelle that I'd had enough. And I did. I was willing to sleep at rest areas in the car until we got back down to Houston, or got to Austin. We were leaving Illinois Monday regardless.
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