This has been a fantastic week.
I say that because in no particular order, I have: spied on Liv successfully from afar during Little 500 week; researched obtaining a PhD; upped my mileage and effort for the pre-marathon training which begins officially on June 1; picked a wedding date; and had several excellent new business opportunity meetings.
One of the meetings was not one which I secured myself but rather, was put on my schedule by our internal sales rep. Now, I am nothing if not game for new experiences especially when they include going out of my comfort zone under the auspices of being surrounded by education and religion all in one fell swoop. Or in this case, candles and buggies.
“I scheduled you a meeting at a school district, it doesn’t seem too big but I think they have student records from forever that they can no longer store there,” Laura announced while walking in my office six seconds after I closed my door.
“Ok, when and where?”
“It’s on your calendar and, LaGrange.”
Lovely, I thought. The only good that can come of this is that it’s in the direction I travel to go see the man who has the same wedding date on his calendar and is also presumably having a fantastic week.
I arrived at the school corporation in LaGrange Tuesday morning at 9:00am. My GPS helpfully buttinski’d me there, through the winding roads of nothingness save each and every white house, clothes line and barn on either side of the road. IF I were to text and drive – and I’m saying IF– there’d be no way to effectively do it on the way to Westview School Corporation, as there are no rumble strips, only piles of horse manure and obviously that’s no way to slow anybody down.
The “campus” was a very large Middle School, an Elementary School, and a much smaller than both High School. Unusual, I thought, but at least the Admin Building was clearly marked, standing somewhat concealed behind the row of F150’s (phfst, Lariat’s) and tractors (phfst, please, like I know tractor brands). In I went.
I breathed a collective sigh of relief and apple-cinnamon air while being immediately greeted by a pleasant mid-40’s woman with frosted-tipped short hair sitting behind the front desk.
Administrative secretary? Check. Normal. Candle burning and rustic metal stars hanging every which way as far as the city eye could see? Check. Expected. Bathrooms? Whew, check. What a long ride it was to the middle of uncomfortable.
The meeting with the Superintendent and SURPRISE! the Admin secretary went well. They understood their needs, explained them clearly, and followed the recommendation I provided with ease.
Well this was totally fine and dandy; thinking it’d be weird was all for naught. Just because you went ONE time to Amish-ville (click here for THAT story) does not mean that there is no need for Student Record scanning, don’t be a stereotyping chump. Plus, judging, hello. Have we NOT had enough of that lately within the religious construct? For the love of…
“Oh! Beth! One more thing I forgot to tell you,” the still-smiling Admin secretary squealed out as we were standing around the conference room table about to adjourn.
“What’s that?” I asked, secretly hoping she was going to give me some homemade noodles for the road.
“The records you’ll get – I’m not sure if this matters – but the majority will only be for kids through 8th grade. Most of them drop out before high school to go run the farm.”
I sat back down.
“Is that a problem for you guys to handle?” she asked me, almost apologetically.
“Not for anything we’ve talked about in terms of scanning the records, no. But for society? For calendar year…TWOTHOUSANDANDSIXTEEN? Yes.” I simply could not hold in my opinion on the matter even though it was clearly not the time, nor my place to express it.
In my defense, I knew she and I had similar views – how I deduced that I have no idea, as everything externally visible would have indicated no freaking way – but we were in the Administration Building of a school. The system of education. She was employed there, I’m pretty sure she drove a truck and knew the brand of every tractor in the lot, so clearly she loved to learn.
“I know,” she lamented. “My Dad used to be Amish so I was raised all around it but thankfully am no longer a part of it. They are such hypocrites.”
Two things: this post is in no way meant to be disparaging towards another belief system AND there are hypocrites everywhere. They abound. We know this. We recognize this. We both loathe and cause this.
“What do you mean hypocrites?” I quickly asked, no longer as enraged but now beyond interested in her forthcoming response.
“Well, they like, all have cell phones now. They have laptops. Heck, most of them even drive – Monte Carlos and mopeds – but drive they do. On the roads. And some of them even have washing machines now!! Can you believe it? All because the inefficient rinsing was leaving soap and causing the men to lose time working since they were itching too much.”
Ok, it took EVERYTHING I HAD in that moment not to bust out in complete, utter, disrespectful hysteria. I’m definitely gettin’ some noodles now. All I could think about was a bunch of dudes up on a roof with synchronized, contorted hands down their backs doing some crazy ants-in-their-pants dance, yanking on their suspendered shirts, when suddenly and horrifically, in an accelerated over-the-Price-Is-Right-cliff-like-manner one topples over only to be immediately trampled by a horse who just moments ago had been tied up to the front porch, but was now like a Preakness entrant, displaying a brave and valiant effort to save his itchy master who otherwise might have been ok and just needed a good home remedy or some salve.
“But you want to know what’s the worst thing?” she went on. “That stuff is all well and good, and people pretty much kind of accept it even though we English think it’s absurd – just like, go to school then if you’re gonna ‘not BE Amish’, you know? – but what’s even worse is the time in between when they turn 16 and when they finally decide to ‘join the church.’”
“Wait. I’m confused,” I say. “Aren’t they already part of the church?”
“Well, once they turn 16 they go through Rumspringa.”
“Rumspringa. It’s when they can go and sow all the oats they want and then come back and say formally that they want to join the church. They get it all out of their systems – their parents KNOW – they KNOW! – what’s going on out there in the barns and yet we aren’t allowed to do a thing.”
She went on and on and on at this point, clearly upset by the hypocrisy and the inability to do something, to intervene, in a world which shuns its members if they don’t do what they are supposed to do.
“You mean, they have sex? Lots and lots of hot-lovin-relations before they get married?” I sarcastically and rhetorically inquire.
“Yeah, exactly. And that’s sooooo much worse.”
“Worse than what?” I push.
“Worse than the cell phone. Worse than the laptops or the washing machines or the mopeds or whatever else their ‘religion’ says they can’t have but they do anyway.”
And it was in that exact moment when I didn’t feel so far removed from any other religion on the planet.
She must have sensed my introspection and wonderment of people and beliefs because she added one last story. My mind would almost certainly explode under the weight of its own pain.
“Once – and I know you have to get going, you’re probably starving – a kid went through Rumspringa and joined the church. Then he decided to leave after about a year and his family never talked to him again. He was shunned. His Dad started to beat him but no one would do anything because they also don’t believe in the police or suing anyone, so we finally intervened.”
“That’s horrible,”I respond. “What father would ever do that to his own child for not following the rules?”
I think she may have said something, but I was already out of the building – filled not with a belly full of noodles,but rather, a complete understanding of the answer to that question which I had needed to ask for a very long time.