Directions may get me lost, but culture is what's to love
To the editor: I don't know how things were done in home care in the good old days, but one thing remains the same then as now: We can't serve anybody until we find them. That's not as easy as you might think for someone like me who wasn't born and raised here.
The hills and valleys block cell phone reception so when I find myself miserably lost I can't call for help. GPS is no help, either, probably because some of the names in our region are names that no one but the locals know. One day I was trying to find someone who lived near the Seven Points intersection. I assumed that I was looking for an intersection where seven roads meet, even though that seemed mighty unusual. So I thought about what the locals meant by a "point." Could be just about anything, though: a barn, a house, a wheat field or a store that no longer exists. I found the intersection and saw the sign that said Seven Points. After looking around I knew then that there wasn't 7 of anything. It was just a name.
Road signs in the Hegins region are oftentimes absent. I guess teenagers like to steal them as a prank. I have no choice but to stop at someone's home and get directions, but people always want to know who I'm looking for. "Who you trying to find?" they'll ask. I know perfectly well that to give them a name breaks the rules of patient confidentiality. But to withhold that information is to raise suspicion with the locals. On my luckier days, folks will recognize my uniform as that of a nurse. "Oh, you lookin' for the Jones? They live about a mile down this road." I'll never know how folks know the business of someone who lives a mile away, but I'm grateful nonetheless.
How to make sense of the Upper and Lower Road addresses? You don't. The Upper Road may, or may not be, the higher road, that is to say, one that lies in a higher region and runs parallel to a mountain or hill, as is the case around Trevorton. But I can't become too confident in this assumption, because the Upper Road may also be on a perfectly flat terrain, as in Excelsior. The Lower Road isn't easily seen. It's on the other side of the Upper Road, separated by woods and a block of homes.
Most recently I had to go to Dooleyville. Now I've lived out here for all these years, driven these roads many times over, and I have never heard of it. I called the office to get directions. I was told to go past the high school in Mount Carmel and turn right before passing the cemetery. I knew exactly where this was. I've seen the houses that lie opposite the cemetery, but I never knew that this section of homes was called Dooleyville.
Fortunately, there are only two streets there: Front Street and Back Street. I found Back Street because I used local logic, and drove down the street facing away from Mount Carmel. Then I turned onto the only other remaining street that faces Mount Carmel. The sign said State Street. Confused, I got out of the car and knocked on someone's door. I asked where Front Street was. He laughed. "Oh, I don't know why it says State Street. You're on Front Street."
I no longer question why Coal Township has its own zip code, although it seems to me to be as much a part of Shamokin as Springfield, Tharptown, Bunker Hill, Bear Valley, Edgewood, Ferndale or Raspberry Hill. Doesn't really matter, I guess. I just focus on knowing these areas because folks will use them as a starting point when giving directions, and then will narrow those directions down to the particulars, even if the particulars are stuck in time. "Go to Springfield, turn right, and go past the old Crown Lane bowling alley." Or, "Do you know where the old police station used to be?"
Wouldn't it be easier to just give me the name of the street? Not necessarily. A street may mysteriously change its name, like Water Street. Go one block west on it and it becomes Arch Street.
Men generally give directions based on the location of a hosey or bar. "Do you know where the Fifth Ward hosey is?" I'm thinking, "What's a hosey?" Women use churches. "Turn left after Mother Cabrini." Local food plays a role here, too. "Do you know Catino's? Where the soupies are made?"
Every region in the USA has problems. But we don't encounter too many dangers here. Worst thing I usually encounter is an attack dog - the Chihuahua. It barks and barks from a distance and waits until I turn my back on it. Then it attacks, and nips me in the ankle.
So, folks, please don't think these observations are insults. There's a very good reason why I've lived in this region for 30 years. I love it here. It's unique. People are warm, and appreciative. Long-standing traditions still exist. I now know that soupies are fine-tasting little tidbits of something or other. Best of all, I enjoy being called "buddy," a term reserved for someone you like. It warms my heart when I hear you say, "OK, buddy. See you next week. Drive careful."
I am very fortunate to know many of you, and I look forward to meeting new patients - as soon as I find your home.
Lori Sandahl, RN
(Sandahl is a wound/ostomy consultant for the Visiting Nurses Association, Shamokin.)