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Dispatches From Down East: Intercourse at the Intersection

Posted: 03/30/2012 7:06 am

Day seven of March Break, and we are headed home to Prince Edward Island. En route, we pull off the Interstate to look for Intercourse. No, not that kind -- my nerves are too shot for any amorous side adventure -- we were looking for Intercourse Pennsylvania, population 1558. It's the infamous village where Witness was filmed, and where many of the Amish reside. And we are passing through the countryside so as to look specifically for a few of the locals.

With a name like Intercourse, one might think there would be precious few residents out and about, but we do see the odd buggy driver or Amish biker conducting the business of everyday life. I scour the side roads, as I try not to run the van into an oncoming vehicle. Whenever I spot an Amish buggy, I yell for the kids to look out the window. They are more captivated by Toy Story 3 and fighting over rights for the DVD remote. I soon give up trying to pique their interest.

As we get into the heart of the village, the noise level in our van kicks it up a notch, most noticeably in the back two rows. I would like to stop and eat in a little country kitchen-style restaurant, as would befit the location we are traveling through, but since the children are now screaming blue blazes about whose turn it is to use the DSi and what movie to put in the DVD player next, the two humans not yet fighting make an executive decision to keep on driving further.

My husband rolls the windows up all the way as we pass by an Amish gentleman sitting on the grass by the side of the road -- and he gets the window up not a second too soon. All heck breaks loose in the van and everybody starts screaming at once.

In one last ditch effort to initiate better behaviour from the back, my husband begins explaining the Amish way of life to our children. How Amish children live life without access to video games and electronics. How we could get to taste a slice of living done in the slower lane of life if we stop for some traditional Amish food that has origins in Germany.

That is all it takes.

My dream of supper around a kitchen table goes up in smoke. The kids no longer want to stop anywhere in the vicinity of Intercourse or the like. And for the first time all day, they no longer want to get out of the van. They want me to keep driving.

My husband mumbles something under his breath about how taking our kids into an Amish restaurant might not be the best idea at present. Not so sure the Amish would appreciate our little clan tearing up the idyllic countryside with our exuberance. Not so sure that poor man we just passed will ever get over the sight of our black van rockin' and rollin' its way through Intercourse like we were trying to put on a show for somebody.

Things gradually start to simmer down, and I again resume looking around at the picturesque landscape and tidily structured farms laid out before us on either side of the road. We come down to a small intersection, and I see a state trooper standing by the side of the road with his vehicle parked haphazardly, lights flashing.

There has been an accident, and it appears a black car has ridden off the road and landed itself on the front lawn of an Amish farmhouse. Five or six little boys and girls dressed traditionally, their faces peeking up over the white fence that surrounds their property, are surveying the damage and keeping an eye on the unfolding events. By any kid's standard, having someone land their vehicle on your lawn is downright exciting. Across the field, a couple of Amish men stand ready to observe from a distance, and I assume they are there to lend a helping hand if need be.

It is quite striking, this sight. Locals observing with interest the tourist, one whom has landed himself in a rather embarrassing predicament. As we go on further past the unfolding accident scene, we eventually come across signage that tells drivers to keep their eyes on the road and drive carefully. It appears that there is a price to pay for hawkish gawking. If it happened once, it has probably happened before. And could quite obviously happen again.

I try to keep a closer eye on the yellow line that snakes its way through the back country of Pennsylvania.

Here's the thing: It must be ironic to stand on the opposite side of the proverbial fence and be the one observing life on the other side. One can only assume that this unfortunate vehicle was doing what many tourists do when driving through Intercourse or the like: Stare at what they see as different and strange.

How satisfying it must be, if even in a small way, to be Amish and observing what they must look on and view to be as strange and different: A hapless car operator who has plowed his way into a ditch on the edge of a tidy lawn so as to get a closer look at people living lives quite different than his own.

I wonder if that man got what he was after, with all the attraction that was mustered to come to his aid. Who's calling whom strange now. And, one can only imagine the conversations that were had around the dinner table tonight in the surrounding Amish kitchens privy to information of that unfortunate roadside accident and scene of the disaster.

While the Amish may have been at it discussing the car accident, I have to wonder if they noticed the black van with the loaded car carrier on top. Inside of which six crazed and weary P.E.I. travelers are on their way through Intercourse, looking themselves for a glimpse of life on the other side. I'm sure we are a strange and wonderful sight to behold as we make our way through Amish country. It is not often you see six occupants inside a van looking one part Brady Bunch and one part Beverly Hill Billies.

Of course, I wouldn't blame anyone for taking a good long stare at us. I know that I would.

 

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