Things Overheard


Greenville, NORTH Carolina


Excuse me. Could you tell me how to get to Arlington Avenue?

The question was presented to me as I was getting gas for my truck at a little quick shop near Furman.  I pride myself on knowing how to get around Greenville, one of the most confusing cities for driving in the whole of the United States. So normally a question like this doesn’t bother me, and I can quickly give directions and the best route.  This time, though, I was stumped.

“I’m sorry, I think there is an Arlington Street in Greer, but I can’t think of an Arlington Avenue in Greenville right off.”  The next series of questions really baffled me…

“This is North Carolina, right?”

“No, ma’am, this is South Carolina”

“Do you mean this isn’t Greenville, North Carolina?”

“That’s right.  Greenville, North Carolina is quite a ways from here.”

“Well, how far away would that be?”

“At least two or three hundred miles, maybe a bit more.  I normally keep a map in the car and could show you, but I don’t have one with me right now.”

At this point the woman looked completely exasperated.  Her husband (I assume) was in the passenger’s seat zonked out this entire time and hadn’t said a word.  She got out and went into the shop to find a map and I continued filling my truck.

I pondered how someone could get into such a fix.  Laura had an instrument repairman fly into Greenville, NC by booking a flight to the wrong city.  He had to rent a car to drive to Furman.  This didn’t appear to be the case.  The car looked like their personal vehicle, and they looked like they had been driving a long time already.

I guess it depends on where they were coming from.  If they had started somewhere to the southwest, such as southern Alabama, etc., then they might have taken I-85.  In that case they weren’t too far out of the way.  They just hadn’t driven far enough, and thought they had arrived when they saw the signs for Greenville.  If they came from Florida, or from somewhere up north, then Greenville, SC would have been quite a detour.

Regardless, I hope they get to their destination safely.  I felt a little like one of those local yokels that tells everyone, “You can’t get there from here.”  I did resolve right then and there to make sure that I had maps for South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia always in my car.

Scenes from a Whitmire Truck Stop


Whitmire Truck Stop

NOTE: This restaurant has closed.

I headed out early for my kayaking trip on the Enoree River this morning, with the intent that I would get breakfast in route somewhere. I didn’t have to meet my fellow paddlers until 9:30, so that gave me plenty of time. I knew there were several Waffle Houses along the way, but I was more interested in finding a little Mom & Pop place somewhere in Whitmire.

I drove through the little town.  It looks like they are trying to spruce up the place, with new paint on the buildings downtown and a fresh new look to the store fronts.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t any place open for breakfast.  My GPS was of no help, as it only showed the local Chinese and Mexican eateries.  Heading north on Highway 176 I finally hit pay dirt – the Whitmire Truck Stop.

Whitmire Truck Stop

Let’s be clear.  The only trucks that this place can accommodate are of the pickup variety, and of those there was an abundance.  I entered and took a booth, and it was obvious that I was not appropriately attired.   I had on nary a bit of woodland camouflage.  Still, they let me in, and soon a young waitress was taking my order.

The Regulars

The walls were covered with signs from “The Mgmt”, including, “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone” and “No profanity allowed.”  Those were side-by-side with a signs that read “Hunters, fisherman, and other liars gather here.”

Off to one side was a larger round table where the regulars gather.  The occupants of this table came and went, but they all knew each other.  One regaled the group with tales of weird food he had eaten in Vietnam and compared that to his own recipe for turtle soup. Others talked about local politics and areas of concern.  At one point a man came in, walked past the counter to the kitchen, then joined the table with his own plate of food.  I’m guessing he was the owner.

Behind me two women were carrying on a lively conversation about local gossip and just about anything else.  They spotted the kayak on top of my car and said that they would hate to spend the day sitting out on a river in something like.  They also cast aspersions on the hunters that came in, saying that they wouldn’t want to sit outside waiting for a deer to wander by, either.  One of the women was not happy with the way her grits looked, and sent them back.  This was truly a Southern institution.

I got my coffee in a mug covered with Easter Eggs.  I saw other tables with coffee mugs making up an oddball mix from other commercial establishments, events, and patterns.  No matching china here, they make do with whatever is at hand.  Fine with me  – it held enough coffee, and did the job with no problem.

WTS Breakfast

My food soon arrived. I had ordered my standard – two eggs scrambled with grits, bacon, and toast. I understand why the woman had sent back her grits. Mine were a bit lumpy and a bit tepid, just barely warm enough to melt the copious amounts of butter I had lathered into them. Still, I was hungry enough (and enough of a stranger) to not send them back.

I was provided exactly one choice of jelly for my toast – mixed fruit. I guess they thought that a mixed variety would satisfy everyone. If you want grape, it’s in there. If you want apple, it’s in there, too. Very cost effective, I’m sure. Breakfasts at these types of places are always inexpensive, and so I understand cost cutting measures.

Whitmire Truck Stop

Everything tasted fine, and I finished up my meal quite satisfied. More woodland camouflage arrived, and I needed to meet the rest of my party. I approached the counter, which had on display one rather large white leather-bound Bible, and paid my bill. Despite the tepid grits, I’d trade a hundred Cracker Barrels for a place like this any day.

Audio Journeys – The Anderson Jockey Lot


Jesus and Knives

Paul and I made our annual trek to the Anderson Jockey Lot. We always try to take a newbie with us – someone not yet immersed in southern flea market culture. Lately this has been a new faculty member at Furman, and this year was no different. Karen Buckmeuller was our victim this time. She couldn’t convince her new husband, Herman Holt, to come along with us. Several others were also supposed to go with us, but wimped out, too.

As I’ve learned, the denizens of the Jockey Lot get very nervous around cameras, and with good reason. We saw several less-than-legal items for sale. I was still able to snap a few shots, though. Most useful was the little Sansa Clip recorder. I clipped it to my shirt and left it recording the entire time we were there. I got some fascinating conversations. I’ve edited it down to the best clips and added a little background music, then posted it to It’s about six minutes long.

In this audio clip, you will here the following, in order:

  • Question about the price of a Megatron helmet
  • Haggling over the sale of a car
  • A discussion about a breed of dog
  • The benefits of using fake security cameras
  • A bird saleslady
  • A call to repentance for stealing cars
  • A discussion of spicy pickled tomatoes
  • How society has been destroyed
  • The problems with Dale Earnhardt candles and Teresa Earnhardt
  • Good beans
  • Night blooming plants
  • A rooster crowing
  • Another dog salesman
  • And finally, selling big time

There were several more conversations I would have loved to have captured. (more…)

VE Encounter


I was running a bit late for lunch today so I decided a quick hamburger at Hardees was in order. As usual, I had my current book with me, and planned to read a couple of chapters while I ate. When I take my book into fast food places, especially around here, I tend to stick out. Today not only did I stick out, but I attracted a bit of attention.

First, let me set the stage. I was sitting a small table off to the side. I had glanced out the window and noticed an old Buick with a front license plate commemorating the 147th Field Artillery Brigade from WWII. I noted it briefly, thinking that we had a WWII vet somewhere here in the restaurant, then returned to my reading.

As I read, an older gentleman walked past and asked if I was reading about history. I had John Lane’s Circling Home with me, so I said that the book did cover some history of Spartanburg. The man then asked me if I knew what today was. Having seen the license plate, and having seen a little news blurb online this morning, I put two and two together and quickly replied that it was VE Day. He seemed genuinely pleased that I knew the significance of the date, and then proceeded to tell me about some of his experiences in WWII.

It was obvious that this man really felt the significance of the date, and that he really wanted to share his memories with someone. His tales were laced with cringe-inducing racial epithets, but I listened attentively and respectfully. The whole encounter only lasted a couple of minutes, and I wished I’d had my little field audio recorder with me. I would have gladly put my book aside to listen to more.

[tags]VE Day, veterans, WWI[/tags]

What the Audience Never Hears, Part II


Maestro, it’s time for a break.

But vwe have one more piece! Veel break zhen.

That’s tomorrow’s dress rehearsal.

Zhis frustrating, no?

Thus, the Union speaks.

Does This Shirt Make Me Look Fat?


Tom, I almost didn’t recognize you. You’ve gained so much weight!

I didn’t recognize you, either. You’re so old and decrepid now.

At least, that’s what I wanted to say.

What a Revelation!


So what’s that you’re reading today?

Oh, it’s just some science fiction novel I picked up on the bargain table.

Me, too.  It’s called Revuhlations.

(Holds up book entitled Revelations Unyielding.)

You know, the End Times, they’s coming, and it’s gonna be bad.

I wonder if she knows that she just called the Book of Revelations science fiction? 

Delayed Math Skills


The following is an amalgam of actual phone calls received at our district office this morning…

We’re on a two hour delay, right?  What, exactly does that mean?

Just add two hours to the start time. 

If my child’s school starts at 7:45, do I bring him at 10:00 or at 9:45?


Well, what time will the buses come by?

Two hours later than they normally would?

I don’t see no other kids out waiting for the bus.  Are you sure it’s on time?

Ma’am, it’s not time for the bus to arrive yet. 

…and we wonder why our math scores are lagging. 


Unusual Quotes during Football


Normally, conversation while watching a football game doesn’t involve discussion of chemistry.  Laura mentioned her discovery of, which prompted him to relay the tale of this e-mail he received while at Harvard…

Dear Dr. Goess:

My roommate had the chemical structure of her antidepressants tattooed on her ankle. She didn’t have the atoms labeled because it hurt too much.  Would that make it a different molecule?

I really have no response to that.

Later in the evening, Paul offered this jewel… 

I had to give up eating at both Hardees and Burger King because of the banality of their commercials.

That would not be the only factor keeping me from those places. 

That’s t-r-i


Santa brought me a new tripod for Christmas

Cool!  How many gigs does it have?  Does it play video?


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