Monday, July 7, 2008

Sold Out

Yesterday was the perfect day to visit John and Abigail Adams's house, and so we did. 

We happily marched up to the visitor's center in Quincy, which took about an hour to reach, only to be greeted by an avid enthusiast's worst nightmare:  tour tickets sold out.  I approach the desk.  "I love Abigail Adams. I'm writing about her in my dissertation, and I came all the way from Mississippi to 'see' her. Is there anything you can do?"  The woman gestured helplessly toward the mass of  people in the waiting room.  "No."  

But I hate no.  I'm an only kid, so I bristle at the word.  I turn to the group I'm with and say, "We're going to see Abigail."  And so, we begin a 45-minute hike to her house, where we encounter a giant tour group standing outside of her birthplace.  A very odd thing is happening. The tourists are Japanese, and the tour guide is yelling the same thing over and over to them in English, although they clearly don't understand him, as they are just standing in the same spot he's asking them to move away from.  A youngish guy, about 26 or 27, is running up and down the street in front of them, singing.  One way, he sings, "I'M SO EXCITED....AND I JUST CAN'T HIDE IT. . ." while skipping, staring at the tourists the entire time. On his way back, he did the same thing, only he changed the words: "J - F - K - WAS A GREAT PRESIDENT OH YEAAHHHH."  The tourists just blinked at him.

I went up to the tour guide and said everything in a rush. "I know I'm not supposed to be here but I write about Abigail Adams I mean I'm writing a dissertation and I love her and I've always wanted to see where she was her space I mean I HAVETOSEEWHERESHEWROTEHERLETTERS."  He just looked at me sideways.  "You WALKED here?" he asked. I took a deep breath. "Yes." 

He set us aside and looked around cautiously.  The tourists left, and in between groups his friend, Will, gave us a tour.  "If you want to see where they married, you'll need to do the same thing at the next house. Grovel. Plead," he suggested. So we did. 45 minutes into town, 15 minutes to Abigail and John's married house. 

"WE WALKED ALL THE WAY FROM THE BIRTHPLACE" was all I could get out when we finally made it there.  "Jesus!" the guide said. "Sit down."  She disappeared into the carriage house behind the Adams mansion and returned with a piece of cardboard that said "Four complimentary tickets."  She liked our enthusiasm. And I got to stand in the very place where Abigail Adams ate, laughed, made butter, even breathed her last breath.  

So this day wouldn't have been remotely possible without the patience of the people traveling with me, or the benevolence of the guides working at the Adams estates.  Here's to big-hearted humanity and all lovers of literature for making one dream of mine come true.

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