When you visit Michiana* after Labor Day…
* For more recent readers, our cabin is located on the corner of Chickadee Trail and Michiana Drive. The area is called Michiana, because it’s right on the border. Our cabin is situated in Indiana (which is on Central Time) and directly across the street from us is Michigan (which is on Eastern Time.) When our Michigan neighbors are yawning because it’s ten P.M., we Indianans are still going strong because it’s only nine. They also wake up an hour earlier, but they’re very good about not making a racket, so we can sleep in as late as they did. It’s the neighborly thing to do.
Labor Day is the traditional “end of summer” cut-off point. After that, it’s close up the cabin, and back to school. Due to Anna and Colby’s wedding and its myriad arrangements, we were unable to get to Michiana before Labor Day. Rather than not going at all, we decided to go after.
The experience was different.
Redamak’s, a packed to the gills Michigan hamburger joint during the summer season where it’s the norm to wait a half hour or more for a table, was, after Labor day, virtually empty. It was like the neighboring area had been hit by plague, and ninety per cent of the population had been decimated.
Either that, or Redamak’s had recently botulized a few customers with tainted hamburger meat and the word had gotten out, just not to us.
In either case, it was weird to be seated immediately. I was tempted to ask, “Could we just wait on these benches a while? It seems wrong to go right in.” But I didn’t. We went right in. Our order arrived in five minutes. It would have been faster, but they had to wake up the chef.
One of our favorite places to shop in nearby New Buffalo, Michigan, is called Michigan Thyme (get it? – it’s a play on words). Along with an adjoining diner, the Michigan Thyme emporium offers knickknacks, men’s and women’s summer wear, and a variety of frozen soups, which are homemade and delicious.
When we opened the freezer compartment to check out the selections, we were confronted by a substantial “Post Labor Day” reduction in options. Instead of a dozen choices, there were only, like, four. It was as if, when summer officially “left the building”, it had departed with soup.
Then there’s Michigan City’s outlet mall, the Lighthouse, an obligatory tourist destination on every visit. Understandably, by after Labor Day, the merchandise in every outlet had been scrupulously picked over, leaving remaining size options suitable for only football players and Little People, and items of clothing that, when you looked at them, you knew immediately why they were still there.
Indianans, and nearby Illinoisans and Michiganders, desperate for bargains during the worst economy since the Depression, had still said “No way” to these fashion failures, even at rock bottom prices, and I’m talking “Twenty Per Cent Off”, after fifty per cent had already been taken off. My math skills being what they are, I have no idea what that made the final price. I just know I picked up a not entirely hideous sports shirt for thirteen dollars. In L.A., thirteen dollars is the buttons.
I may be unfairly maligning the local populace here, but I had a rather chilly exchange with an employee at the township business office, suggesting an, at least unconscious, irritation that, after Labor Day, some tourists were still around. The employee understood she had to tolerate them over the summer, but after Labor Day?
“Gimme a break!”
When I walked into her office, she was talking on the phone. It sounded like personal call, which she remained engrossed in, right up to the point where I might have complained about her behavior to her superiors. When she finally hung up, I immediately got down to business.
“Every year I come in here to ask if you have any “Michiana” t-shirts in adult sizes, which is what I’m doing right now. So do you?”
The woman’s response was noteworthily unfriendly, maybe because my arrival required to her to curtail her phone call, maybe because I had jumped in without a “Hello.” Or maybe because she was annoyed that all the tourists hadn’t already gone home, a sentiment I am not entirely immune to, having dealt with dawdling departing guests from the wedding.
Concerning my interest in adult-sized “Michiana” t-shirts, the woman brittlely replied,
“Somebody talked about getting some. But I don’t know if they did.”
“Is there any way of finding out?”
“There’s a council meeting tomorrow at three. I could ask then.”
“Great. I’ll come back around four.”
“We’ll be gone by four. Come back on Monday.”
“We’re leaving Sunday. Are you open on the weekend?”
At that was that. Small town hospitality? It’s “iffy” in the off-season.
The trip was, as always, wonderful. I will mention one last story. When Dr. M entered our cabin after an excursion to the mailbox – mostly flyers and solicitations from local charities – the stack of mail also included a letter, personally addressed to me.
I tore open the envelope to find a note, handwritten in pencil, that read,
My family and I live in your area. We have been unable to speak with you personally, but I wanted to share a thought from the Bible with you.
The letter goes on to discuss concerns relating to my Immortal Soul, offers an accompanying “tract” from the Bible from which she hopes I will find encouragement, and is finally signed,
Sincerely, Allison Dobis.
Of all the joys of our recent visit to Michiana, unquestionably the greatest joy of all was being absent from the cabin the day Allison Dobis knocked on our door.