August 10, 2008

Last week I told of my visit to St. Louis. I found the area I visited charming. The people who served in stores were very polite and helpful. Their pleasant attitudes impressed me. About fifteen years ago, Gary and I visited the city as part of an excursion to church history sites and came away with fear and trembling.

On July 4, we drove from an outlying area into the heart of the city about noon to watch fireworks at the park under the famous St. Louis Arch, called the Gateway to the West. As we ascended the arch by elevator, Gary, who is acrophobic, felt extremely uncomfortable. At the top where wide windows to below the knee show a magnificent view, Gary felt like crawling on his hands and knees. He surprised us both as he made himself look out at the Mississippi winding to the misty horizon.

On the grass below, we spread a blanket, ate our picnic, read, and watched the people who arrived, many bearing huge kegs of beer for their groups. After a few hours, the immense park seemed to be floating on beer. The volume of laughter and shouting increased as did the lines to use the outdoor toilets. By the time dusk fell, we were surrounded by people who were frighteningly rowdy and rude, and our sober little blanket island felt smaller and smaller.


The fireworks, reflected in the waters of the river were worth the long wait. After a spectacular show, we became specks in a river of people through the several blocks to the parking lot. We sat in our car and waited. The streets were gridlocked. Most of the other cars there were empty because their drivers wisely waited.

But in the white car parked just ahead of us, the motor started. Although surrounded by other cars in the lot, the driver rammed his car into the rear of the empty Cadillac in front, severely warping its bumper and trunk. We were helpless to stop him. Horrified, we sent prayers up, hoping he wouldn’t back up and ram our car or injure us and ruin our vacation. He backed—noisily lurching into the empty car on his right, creasing and tearing its fender. In the meantime, some cars were moving out of the lot, finally, but we were still stuck behind the drunk. He rammed into the car in front again! We held our breaths as the car backed again–this time turning to slam into the side of the car to the left, bending its rear door and fender! He bashed forward again for another try . . . .

Suddenly, an opening into the lane in back rescued us! We gave the drunk’s license number to the lot attendant, but no police could arrive through the traffic. We could only imagine the cost to that man’s insurance company for damages to his and three other cars. We slowly drove out rejoicing and unharmed, but with a negative impression of that city. I’m glad that last week some of the city’s charms, the green parks, the streets lined with linden trees, the very good public transportation, and the people I interacted with changed my mind as I saw another side of St. Louis. PMA