Public tours of the grounds of the United States Military Academy, a.k.a. West Point, come in two sizes, the 75-minute version and the two-hour version. Anne, ever the American history aficionado — frankly, it’s kind of what she went to college for — signed us up for the deluxe version of their tour that included a walk through West Point Cemetery, an officially designated space since 1817. We weren’t given time or directions to inspect every individual grave, but those we spotted — whether with our friendly tour guide’s assistance or through our own recognizance — was a veritable who’s-who from the past two centuries of American history, from the Civil War to Iraq.
Given the choice, I’d rather be early for appointments than embarrassingly late. I’ve lost count of the number of really close calls I’ve had in my life, when a confluence of my mapping skills, sense of timing, and unexpected obstacles balanced out and saw us arrive at a given destination a heart-stopping minutes before showtime.
The official instructions to our next stop ordered us to be there thirty minutes before takeoff. Despite the previous 90-120 minutes’ foul-ups and misjudgments, we pulled into their parking lot at fifteen minutes till. Anne had given up on making it. I thought we could pull it off, but allowed I might be wrong. It wouldn’t be our first time prepaying for a tour only to have something go afoul and lose us our nonrefundable fees. But no, the sight of the front-gate tank told me we were right where we were meant to be, which is a miraculous thing given that the directions had stopped making sense or matching anything in sight several turns ago.
We were therefore a bit flustered when we walked into the visitors’ main check-in lobby of the United States Military Academy, more commonly known to us civilians as simply West Point.