That text message conversation between myself and my producer, Rhianna, began 3 hours outside of Chicago during our first snowfall of the year. I was on set in a lavishly converted barnhouse having just realized that we lacked the tea kettle that was to play a major part in the scene. I called Rhianna, who was driving herself and the cast to the location to let her know I’d go and fetch one and that she shouldn’t bother.
How hard could it be to find a tea kettle? After all, I was in Warren, IL. Population 1,428.
After ruling out the local Wal-Mart and Target only because “local” meant 45 minutes away, I headed into town.
Truly, I didn’t have time to go hunting around a tiny town for props, but the rest of the crew was tied up with the set, so off I went. I tried the pharmacy first. I thought surely they’d have a tea kettle. I realized rather quickly that the Warren Drug was not a CVS (although they happily gave me an empty pill bottle after I told them we were making a movie about a woman with a terminal illness).
The kind ladies at Warren Drug suggested I try Hartzell’s IGA, the grocery store at the edge of town right by the grain elevator. So I did. Hartzell’s was everything you’d hope a small town grocer would be: family-owned and operated for three generations and friendly as all get out. While Hartzell’s did have “wide aisles for easy shopping," no tea kettles.
The sweet ladies at the deli counter were sorry I hadn’t found what I was looking for and one even offered up her own personal tea kettle. They suggested I go back into town and try the hardware store. If the hardware store didn’t have one they suggested that, quite possibly, the brick building across the street from the hardware store might be able to help. Apparently, the unnamed store was owned by a guy named Chuck who sometimes forgets to turn his “open” sign on, and if that was the case, I should look for a red truck out back, which means he’s probably there and asleep, so I should knock loudly.
So…I went back into town and headed for the hardware store. Well, wouldn’t you know it, right next to the hardware store was a little antique and ceramics shop. I’ll spare you the creepy details of the thousands of unpainted bunnies and gnomes stacked floor-to-ceiling and simply say that there, tucked in a dusty corner, was a perfect, blue, metal tea kettle. And it was only $3.50!!! I pulled out my debit card. They only took cash. One more trip across the street to the General Store’s ATM, then back to the antique store, and I was on my way back to the set.
As I settled onto the highway, something nagged at my heart. What could it be?
Despite an odd, slightly frustrating, and unexpected trip around a town I’d never been to, I had found everything I was looking for.
And then I saw it.
As I had been racing all around Warren, IL I had been passing staggering amounts of beauty.
But I wasn’t looking for staggering amounts of beauty. I was looking for a tea kettle…and an empty pill bottle.
The feeling arrested me.
So I stopped…(even though I didn’t have time)…looked around…(even though I didn’t have time)…and took a couple photos.
As I got back into the car I wondered how often I do this. I’m pulled off a project to go hunt for an unexpected item and consider it a distraction from my original goal. Seth Godin would call these interruptions, “interesting problems,” and when confronted with such obstacles we always have options.
Too often I think I’m supposed to be looking for one thing, when really I’m supposed to be finding, unearthing, and discovering another.
And the only way to find it, or to see it, is to stop and look around.
Even if I don’t have time.