Friday, January 28, 2005

Mr. Crumb's Wild Ride

Are you sure you want me to drive? I mean, I will. If you want me to. It's just ... if you want to get there in less than an hour ... with no unexpected detours ... then maybe you should drive.

I used to drive all the time. I grew up in Tucson. You had to drive there. Walking? No. Everything was too far away, plus it was usually a thousand degrees out. So, no walking. In fact, the first day I had my license I stayed out until four in the morning ... but that's another story.

Once I moved out East, I got very used to the no-driving thing. I love trains, I love subways, I love walking. I love that you can get around all over New York with no car. I bought a book called something like, Daytrips You Can Take Around New York With No Car. You can go quite far...

So, I would drive when I went back to Arizona, but in New York, no driving. (My driver's license is still an Arizona one ... I am currently a "phantom resident" at the address of a good friend from high school ... although I have to change that soon, as I have already been summoned for jury duty there, and I'm sure that's probably illegal in some way.) I would also drive when I visited friends in L.A., but as I got to be more of a New Yorker, I did less and less well on the California freeways. (Sample quote from me, when called on my cautious-grandma approach to speed: "I can drive fast. I just ... don't want to.") Northern California was a little better; somehow I managed to maneuver my father's old 1977 Thunderbird through the streets of San Francisco - like driving an iron boat up and down concrete waves - but that, also, is another story.

Now that I'm living primarily in Baltimore, it is time to get back in the habit of driving. Luckily we live within walking distance of many things - I hardly ever have to drive, if I don't really want to. There's a video store, a grocery store, the art-movie theater, the train station, a cafe ... all the necessities of life. But ... to go to the good grocery store, one has to drive. So I know where that is. There are also various malls, in which reside cooking-implement stores. So I can get there too, more or less. But the rest... I haven't really figured out.

So today, D. went up to New York. This afternoon, his kindly aunt called. She had been called to jury duty, and could I give her a ride home? Why, of course I could. The courthouse wasn't far. I had passed her house many times on the way to and from the second-best grocery store. I would be delighted to drive her home. How hard could that be?

Well, next time she'll think twice about asking me for a ride.

Mapquest was very helpful. This was a straight shot downtown, take a left, take another left (so as to end up on the correct one-way street), and there's the courthouse; from the courthouse, one or two more turns to get on the road she lived on. This would be easy.

Winter. Road closures. Lanes merging into other lanes. I had it down, no problem. Driving in downtown Baltimore really isn't that crazy - it's a grid, more or less, and the streets are mostly one-way, like New York, so I can figure it out.

But.

The first problem was, she didn't seem to be where she said she'd meet me ... "by the subway." At first I thought this meant by an entrance to Baltimore's Mystery Subway (which I have yet to actually see or ride on) but no, it meant a Subway sandwich shop. I was supposed to call her cell to tell her I was close to arriving, but my cell battery was dead. The curb by the store was a no-stopping zone. I stopped anyway, leapt out, and dashed into the shop. No aunt-in-law. She was probably somewhere, wondering why her cell wasn't ringing. I dashed back out - and there she was. Ahh, good.

So, we got in the car and headed for her house. She told me about her day - she'd actually been chosen for the jury. She couldn't talk about the specifics of the crime, but the judge had said it would most likely take just a day. It sounded interesting - I've been called for jury duty many times (at my actual residence in New York) but have never been chosen.

We were headed up the road that she lives on, with a few miles to go. I had decided to avoid the freeway at this time of day since rush hour was underway. All was well - this was just a straight shot.

Until.

The road did one of those things where, in order to stay on that road, you actually have to turn right; if you go forward, you're magically on a different road. Rattled by someone blaring their horn as I tried to slow down to read the microscopic street sign, I made the wrong choice (curse you, Mapquest, and your vagueness!)

Aunt-in-law looked around, and, though we were practically in her neighborhood, wondered mildly, "Where are we?"

Well, I don't know. We were on some winding lane that didn't show any signs of leading to an intersection that might take me back to the road we were supposed to be on. "It's an adventure," I kept saying. Yes, that's what she wanted. An impromptu road trip with an insane person.

There were some roads that I tried turning onto to get us back to the right road. Nope - this street is one way - going the other way! Back up, back up, back up. This one looks good - ah yes, here's the right road. The neighborhood is recognizable. We're almost there. One problem: now I had to make a left turn onto the road we wanted, which was impossible since we weren't at a light, the road was busy and narrow, and cars were parked right up to the corner limiting my field of vision. I'm not thrilled about making left turns to begin with, as anyone who's ever driven with me can tell you. So, I began making a series of right-turn-boxes to go left. But -- roads that didn't connect as they should, combined with traffic lights made invisible by a glaring late-afternoon winter sun, made this the most hair-raising part of the trip.

I finally got headed in the right direction; aunt-in-law wondered plaintively, "When is D. coming home?" clearly thinking that if she needed a ride on Monday, she would be a fool to chance it with me again. I pulled up at the bus stop across from her house. She scrambled out. Who knew jury duty would be so hazardous?

I had just enough time to get home, change clothes, and head out to the movies with a group of friends (a group of seven including D.'s ex and his current partner, and a musical-theater actor named Juan from Miami who had joined the Army to sing in the Army band.) I had to find my way to a mall in the suburbs, which involved three separate freeways. I made it there with no problem; coming back was tricky, but after a few "this is definitely not the right way" detours, I found my way home.

Finally, that trail of crumbs is good for something.

4 Comments:

Blogger David said...

Honey, I'm so proud of you!!! I suspect you never made it above twenty miles per hour, but you go.

10:49 PM  
Blogger jwer said...

That sounds suspiciously like my drive home from the Comcast HQ out near Reisterstown the other day... although part of my problem is my unwillingness to drive at a low enough speed that I might be able to read street signs before zooming past them. To their credit, however, none of my fellow drivers ever honked at me, despite the intense stupidity of many of my maneuvers... if I'd been in, say, Bethesda, I probably would've been t-boned by a soccer mom for my crimes...

4:25 PM  
Blogger Zenchick said...

um...first of all, if you are ever in a pinch, you can always call me. Of course, that would involve my next suggestion...which is a car charger for your cell phone :-)
and stay away from mapquest! Ick. It's inherently evil.

9:53 PM  
Blogger Dr.Philomena said...

I hate mapquest. I had to get from New Brunswick to Hoboken, and it said Exit 14 off the turnpike. Sadly they did not mention whether it was exit A B or C and I ended up in the middle of a Puerto Rican Parade in Jersey City.

7:10 AM  

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