So, here I am in the Decatur, IL, racking up some overtime so I can get some much-needed cash in my next paycheck. Plus, I thought it would be cool to see the Midwest on work's dime. I need to start learning that when you're in a place for less than 30 hours, you don't see much of anything. And also, you don't really need to pack an entire suitcase for one night away from home. Come on, self. Get a clue already.
Anyway. The midwest sure is... midwesterny. I've never been anywhere officially midwestern except for Chicago, which I'd argue doesn't really count. I mean, I've been to Chicago many times, and I've never seen a single corn stalk or heard a mention of Honest Abe. So far, in my hour-long drive from the Springfield airport to my hotel, I've seen 198473 signs pointing to historic Lincoln-related sights and 234872342323428379234 cornstalks. In fact, the slogan of one radio station was "Where the only thing taller than our corn stalks is the Marriott". Huh? There were also a few cows. I really wish I had time to see some Lincoln stuff. Alas, I'll be back home in time to catch the tail end of Heroes tomorrow night.
I'd like you all to know that I rented a car, at Joel's insistence, since a cab ride would have been astronomically expensive (plus, the Springfield airport turned out to have a total of 3 gates and 0 available taxis). I drove the car myself. And get this: I didn't get the rental insurance. LIVING ON THE EDGE, people.
In addition to the corn and the Lincoln-frenzy, my only observation about Illinois is that the people are absolutely fantastic drivers, zero sarcasm intended. They use their blinkers. They drive a reasonable 10 miles over the speed limit on the highway. They stay in their lane. They come to a complete stop at stop signs. It's kind of disconcerting. Maybe I've just been living in red-light running, tailgating, talking-on-the-phone-with-your-dog-on-your-lap-while-driving metropolis for too long. Or maybe I emit some kind of Nervous Rental Car Driver sonar that warns everyone on the road around me to exercise extreme caution.
Having a car was very handy for getting me some dinner tonight, since the hotel has no room service (although it does have a minifridge and a microwave, WOOT!) There is a nice stripmall down the street, which I thought would offer lots of dinner options; options in which I could get a good meal without having to sit alone in a restaurant, pretending not to be uncomfortable eating by myself in public. However, I didn't take into account that I went out searching for food at 8:30pm on a Sunday night in Decatur, IL. In other words, nothing was open. Well, nothing but Applebee's.
Never in my life have I left an Applebee's feeling satisfied. Nothing on their menu is the least bit appetizing, and I LOVE food. All kinds of food. I can only wonder at the type of effort it takes to create an entire fold-out menu on which NOTHING makes me salivate. Just to give you a frame of reference, I am the type of person who vacillates between 2 or 3 choices every time I go to a restaurant. Should I get the steak salad or the chicken marsala? Or the pizza? Oh god, pizza. Yes, pizza. But mmmm... steak. And salad. Or maybe the salmon? That sounds good. Hey, what are you going to get? Maybe I should get that. Can I have a bite of yours when it comes? I usually just wait until the waitress arrives and then make a Gametime Decision, going with whatever comes out of my mouth when the waitress looks at me with her pen raised, ready to take my order. But at Applebee's, they manage to put together an entire slate of offerings in which nothing induces my mouth to water. Impressive.
On top of that, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. they mess up your order. (In this feat they are matched only by Ruby Tuesdays, but that's another topic for another day). I'm not talking about bringing out a plate of fried duck liver when I ordered the grilled chicken sandwich. It's little things, like soaking my salad in dressing when I asked for it on the side. Putting unsolicited blue cheese on my burger (don't get me wrong, I love me some stinky cheese, but you have to be in the mood for that stuff. Biting into a sandwich and tasting unexpected blue cheese? Not cool). Not bringing me a glass of water to chase my Diet Coke with, even after repeated requests. That sort of thing.
Tonight, I ordered myself a fried chicken salad -- basically, some lettuce with a few chicken fingers thrown on top. I contemplated going to the Micky D's across the street and just getting some nuggets, but then I decided to be all "healthy" so I can keep fitting into my skinny jeans instead. Yes, I do consider a salad healthy, even if it has friend chicken on it.
So, a chicken finger and some lettuce. Pretty hard to mess up, right? So imagine my surprise when I got back to my room with my Carside To Go bag, only to find chopped eggs and tomatoes, along with some random shredded cheese, all at the bottom of the salad bowl. Eggs and cheese are fine in my book. Tomatoes, not so much. I freaking hate tomatoes. Sliced ones are easy enough to pick off and throw away, but chopped tomatoes are IMPOSSIBLE TO PICK OUT. Just so you know.
It's good to know that no matter where you go, some things stay the same.