I’ve purchased three maps of Oklahoma since we started our project last year.
The first was my inspiration map. Resting on a rack in a 39th Expressway 7-11 minding its own business, I picked it up, counted the towns, and officially committed to the premise of what we now call “Every Point on the Map.” I was going to have a meaningful conversation with at least one person in each of Oklahoma’s 594 town or city.
594 was the total count on my 7-11 map.
Then, sometime in January 2015 we were struggling with our GPS system in the town of Adair and I realized we didn’t have the original map. So, in order to settle upon whether or not we needed to search harder for a town we had planned on visiting, I ran into a convenience store only to be stopped dead in my tracks by a discovery. THAT map had over 600 towns and cities on it, and boasted of being an “official U.S. Postal Service representation” of Oklahoma’s incorporated cities.
I liked 594 better.
Then there was the time we had an unfortunate conversation with someone. I think it might have been the parks and recreation professor from OSU but I’ve blocked out that memory because it inflicted pain upon my psyche. I think he said something like, “Well, I believe there are 654 incorporated cities and towns in Oklahoma….” Those last few words coming out of his mouth, in my mind, did the slo-mo audio thing where his voice lowers, grinding the recipient’s brains. “Six-hun-dred-and-fif-ty-fourrrrrrrr…”
Subsequently, since I really disliked the official Postal Service map, I purchased yet another one two months ago.
As we progress through our travels I highlight the towns we have visited with yellow, pink, or whatever color I have handy. Yesterday I was catching up on my highlighting job when I spied this message:
And, the world became clear.
All I needed was a disclaimer for our project. When someone asks me how many towns there are, I will simply provide them with this disclaimer:
It should be noted that the information for our project was obtained from a 7-11 purchase in 2014. We cannot guarantee total accuracy.
That last sentence in my new disclaimer is especially salient. For example, our map now has write-in towns:
This little jewel of a place (the intersection and general area of McKiddyville, Box, and Corbett OK) came about after we spent an hour looking for a place we could not prove actually existed, although we knew it did. We were looking for McKiddyville and the Lexington police dispatcher told us to simply “head three miles south, past the helicopter parked by the highway, then take a right and you’ll be there shortly.”
We drove for six miles before we all agreed there was no helicopter to be found. We then talked to a man mowing his yard, and woman who had been “celibate for 18 years because she was writing a book,” and finally ended up knocking on a door that was eventually answered by a man who had yelled, “just a minute, I need to get some clothes on” prior to speaking with us. He shared with us the history of a place called Corbett as well as Box, then we simply wrote in McKiddyville at that same spot because – honest to goodness – that was the best we could do.
In research, we call these problems “methodological flaws” or perhaps, when we’re feeling generous, “unexpected circumstances.” For our project, I’m calling them adventures.
Adventures that need a disclaimer.
Over and out, Kelly