When my wheelchair attendant at El Paso airport introduced himself as, “Moses,” I mused, “Aha! He will lead us to the Promised Land,” but not exactly.
I was headed to the University of California in Berkeley for the 75th anniversary of the Western States Folklore Society. My dear friend and colleague, Mariah, generously volunteered to accompany me, aware that traveling alone had become much too challenging.
I thought I had properly planned ahead finding out which hotel or housing facility would be closest to the sessions. The University Faculty Club seemed the most promising with so-called accommodations for the handicapped. However, to avoid the inside stairs we had to go outside and down a steep path made perilous by the constant rain. Can you imagine my negotiating a cane in one hand and an umbrella in the other while trying not to slip just to reach the breakfast dining room?
I also struggled with the hilly wet campus terrain sloshing from building to building for different sessions. And when I finally reached my destination, I ran into another problem. In my Las Cruces home, I take a nap everyday for about two hours. My body would not allow me to break that habit, so when I sat in afternoon sessions,I automatically fell asleep.How embarrassing! I missed hearing many great papers, or so they tell me.
Most of my colleagues from the UCLA Folklore Program were not present, some of them already dead. What compensated for that loss, however, was meeting a new crop of enthusiastic graduate students.That made up for everything.
So what was my take-away from this experience? I will no longer attend academic meetings. In addition, I have just purchased the next step in mobility devices, a rollator that will allow me to sit down when walking becomes too tiring and painful.
Still, I had a wonderful time including a quasi-romantic encounter at LAX with a bizarre beau, a coroner.
Norine Dresser is a folklorist, who despite her age and physical disabilities still looks forward to more adventures that don’t include academic meetings.