The Department of Redundancy Department

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Happy Easter to everybody! I have to admit that, for me, these days Easter isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. (pardon the pun) Easter egg hunts are mostly a thing of the past, now that my kids are getting pretty close to “full sized”. And I’m thankful they didn’t get permanently injured back in the days when I’d turn them loose at the starting line to frolic out into the spring greenery in search of hidden sweets. (Those huge kids they used to be knocked over by looked more than full sized to me at the time, I can tell you).

When I was a kid, Easter seemed like much more of a big deal than it does now. Maybe it’s a California versus Carolina thing. More likely it’s just a sign of the times. I remember everybody going all out to show off their newest spring threads. We’d eat delicious spring lamb for dinner and my mother would try to make sure that I didn’t smother my lamb with too much mint jelly. Yes, Easter was and is a time to celebrate. And to revel in the rebirth that is the springtime.

I tried very hard to think of a good Easter story that would entertain you today. The best I could come up with isn’t really an Easter story, per se. But it did happen around Easter and it was amusing to me and I hope will be to you too. So, here goes.

I was on my way to Orangeburg, South Carolina to visit my Aunt Lucretia for Easter. Orangeburg is a beautiful place to visit in the spring. They have a huge garden along the shores of the Edisto River and the gardens are immaculately maintained for the many tourists who visit every year. I was looking forward to seeing the new spring blossoms almost as much as I was looking forward to seeing my aunt. And I knew that as soon as I walked through her door I would be fussed over. Lucretia was almost eighty at that time and still lived alone in the house that I remembered from my childhood visits. She had to be really looking forward to her wayward nephew’s long overdue visit.

Let me tell you, it’s a really good thing to be fussed over by one of the best cooks in the South! The minute you walk through the door all this food just sort of miraculously appears from a woman who is all the time talking too you at a million miles per hour. You smell aromas from literally ten or twelve delicacies simultaneously and you don’t know which one to sink your chops into first, they’re all so good. You feel bad about making such a pig of yourself. You’re stuffing your face like a starving animal when you really ought to be sharing family news with your own flesh and blood! But the food is just too good for that! As she sets the steaming plates in front of you, she apologizes about how “they’re just leftovers”. Suffice it to say, you never had such “leftovers” in your wildest dreams. Everything from pot roast to collard greens topped with “artichoke” relish (made with Jerusalem artichokes) and biscuits topped with home-made fig preserves from her own tree, Aunt Lucretia was a culinary master when it came to simple down home food.

Where was I before that extended culinary diversion? Oh yeah, I was on my way to Orangeburg. What I forgot to tell you was that I was traveling by bicycle. I’d been riding for a couple of days from my home close to the Blue Ridge Mountains in what South Carolinians call the “Upstate”, I wasn’t very familiar with the roads down in the “Low Country” close to Orangeburg, so I asked an old codger for directions at a place I passed along the way. I worried that he might not understand my query from a cyclist’s perspective, so I emphasized to him that I wanted quiet country roads, not busy roads that would be fast for a car. I didn’t care if I had to go a few extra miles or up a few extra hills, so long as I could get there safely and pleasantly.

This old guy seemed to take that to heart and he thought for a while. Then he wrinkled up his brow and I could see an idea take form. Suddenly he became very animated and something like this spilled like a flood from his tobacco-stained teeth:

“Ya see that gray house by that tree way up there on the left? Go about a mile past that and take a left on Kawkz Furry Road. You STAY on that road. You just go straight. You don’t take NO turns. You just keep bookin’. You don’t turn NOWHERE!. Just go straight. Keep goin’ straight the whole way. Don’t turn for nothing’. There ain’t no turns. You just keep on Kawkz Furry Road the whole way. Don’t make no turns.”

I was so stunned by this unusual outburst and its extreme prolongation that I didn’t stick around for clarification. I folded up my map and got the heck out of there. It was not clear to me that this guy was playing with a full load of bricks. Maybe I’m just better off winging it. But I still had the problem of getting across busy interstate 20 and on down through North and Denmark. After that, I could pretty much smell the biscuits at Aunt Lucretia’s. I pedaled onward and tried to imagine in my head what the old guy was going on and on about.

I passed a gray house I hadn’t actually seen from the start. About a mile past I saw a sign: “Calks Ferry Road”. I took a left and passed seamlessly past quiet country scenes and over a small bridge crossing the busy interstate. The rest of the ride was a piece of cake and, thanks to my mysterious friend, a few hours later I was actually enjoying a piece of cake. To this day those are the best directions I have ever gotten. I would never have found that road on my own. Even with today’s GPS, I couldn’t have picked a better road than that one.
Redundancy can be a good thing. If you jump out of a plane and the parachute doesn’t work, it’s nice to have that spare, isn’t it? And if you travel in an airplane or over a long steel bridge, don’t you want the engineers to have built some extra safeguards (that would otherwise be redundant) into that critical piece of equipment? You bet you do!

Maybe this phenomenon has something to do with the comfort we all get when we hear a chorus repeated over and over in the songs we sing. How many times have you called for an unfamiliar song at a jam session and sung through the verse and chorus once or twice to find that the whole group is chiming in with you by the second or third chorus because it’s such a good song? The chorus sinks in from repetition and everybody is on the same page sooner than you could have imagined.

Thank goodness for redundancy. Otherwise we’d all be lost.

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