01-Jun-1997 -- When I told my wife Sandy that I was going to find the
confluence of the 88th meridian and the 42nd parallel she waited awhile for the
punch line because she thought it was another one of my jokes. Anyway, I
invited her along just in case I might need her to bail me out of jail or cart
off my bullet riddled body or something.
A little after noon on a quiet Sunday
we cruised the neighborhood of the suspected confluence and found it to be located in a
nice but nondescript area of Elk Grove in the northwest suburbs of Chicago
not far from where we live. We didn't have a GPS device so we had to pace
off the distance from the intersecting streets nearest to the confluence.
As close as we were able to tell the confluence was somewhere near where
the backyards where four suburban lots came together. There was somebody
home at one of them working in his garage and so this person became the
lucky one. My wife stayed in the car and I approached this gentleman who's
name I learned is Wolfgang Stein and the address of his house is 62 Kendall
Road. I tried to explain what I was doing but Mr. Stein didn't say much.
He just stood there with a rather quizzical look on his face. He wanted to
know the identity of the person who was still sitting in my car. I told him
that it was my wife and that she is very shy. The truth is that she was
embarrassed as hell and thought that I was nuts but I didn't think that it
was necessary to bother Mr. Stein with all of these unwholesome details.
There was nothing in the backyard but grass and a fence so I asked Mr.
Stein if I could take a picture of him and his house. He said that a
picture of the house would be okay but no picture of him. He backed out of
the way and waved for me to take the picture which I did and then he went
back to what he originally had been doing with no further comment.
As I got in the car and we were about to drive off I could see him shaking his head.
I was very disappointed. I thought the least he could do was to show a
little more enthusiasm. As my wife drove us away (shaking her head also) I
was thinking "why couldn't the confluence be over there in that nice park
or over there by that pretty church or by that interesting statue?" It was
then that I learned a good lesson. The meridians and parallels meet where
they meet and there isn't anything that you can do about it. You can't
fudge the lines. I guess that's what makes this project so
interesting...for me anyway, not Mr. Stein.
I think that I will try to
contact the local city planner's office and see if they can tell me which
lot actually contains the exact 88W 42N coordinates. Perhaps it is one of
Mr. Stein's neighbors. I can contact them and see if they care a little
more. Maybe they'll even throw a party...nahhhh!