The lost city of Morenci 2015.12.16


Last week I received a letter in the mail from Observer reader William Friedrichs of Saline, whose wife, Molly (Moore), grew up in Morenci. William’s letter is addressed “Attn: Investigative staff.” 

Unfortunately, we don’t have much of an investigative staff available, although I did quickly ascertain that the letter was composed on a typewriter. That's a rarity. He’s wondering what happened to Morenci. Here is his story:

William and Molly have traveled over the years and relied on their well-worn road atlas that's now more than 20 years old. One of their children decided to replace it with a new 2016 AAA Road Atlas.

William used the new atlas when he and a neighbor discussed various locations in Michigan that were important to their lives. For example, there was Morenci, his wife's birthplace and early home.

Wait a minute—he couldn't point it out because it no longer existed. He could have said that she grew up here between Waldron and Weston, because they were both on the map. He could have said that it's due south of Clayton or northeast of Fayette.

Pioneer, Frontier, Pittsford, Sand Creek, Jasper—they all made it onto the new AAA atlas, but there's absolutely nothing where M-156 meets State Route 120. Page 57 of the atlas is missing something.

William mentions the fine print statement that starts off "The information in this atlas…is believed to be correct…[but] the publisher does not accept responsibility…" and so forth. William refers to this as the same old story, as in "Whatever happens, we're not responsible."

He refers to the incident as a "travesty of inattention" that should be acknowledged, investigated and corrected so that Morenci can regain its place in the world in the 2017 AAA Road Atlas.

I didn't feel too investigative about the matter. I just sensed the possibility of a column. I expected a good light-hearted exchange with someone from AAA, so I contacted the company via its website.

"I received a letter today informing me that Morenci, Mich., (pop. 2,200) no longer exists according to the new 2016 AAA Road Atlas. Several smaller communities are shown, but Morenci has disappeared. Have we somehow offended you?"

I thought that was sufficiently serious and joking, but Member Relations Department representative Cynthia Brown wasn't going along with it, or didn't read carefully, perhaps.

"Dear David Green:

Thank you for contacting our Member Relations Department. I apologize if you were offended Morenci, Mi was not placed in our AAA Road Atlas. The letter you received was to advise local residents."

Now wait a minute, Cynthia. I didn't say I was offended. And the letter I received wasn't from AAA. Are you paying attention?

She continued:

"You in no way offended AAA. Your inquiry will be forwarded to our AAA National office. Any updates for reasoning I will forward to you. If you have any additional questions please contact me."

With a response like that, I didn't dare contact her. I think the communication problem would have persisted. Maybe Cynthia gets overloaded with serious complaints and I appeared to be just another jerk out to complicate her day.

There was a statement at the bottom of her e-mail telling me that I could try to broaden my question or seek clarification by taking the link provided, so I did. I wanted one more shot at a good response from Cynthia.

The link took me to a list of questions such as, "How do I arrange for roadside assistance if my car is disabled?" That seemed to be the only question that might apply. Think about it—if you're stranded in a place that doesn't exist, how can you arrange for roadside assistance?

I was puzzled by this page since it didn't allow me to broaden the scope of my question, so I entered "Morenci" into a search box in hopes of finding my original query. 

The response was disheartening: "Did you mean Moronic?" OK, AAA, now you have offended me.

"Thank you for your attention," William wrote to close his letter. There was no travesty-of-inattention from me, William, but I got nowhere in my quest to locate Morenci.