Monday, November 19, 2007

Plain(s)feminist, driving around lost.

When I first moved to Buffalo from my much smaller hometown, I was driven (pun intended) to misery by the traffic. I had been used to a much easier pace - to being able to drive roughly 30 miles an hour even during "rush hour." But when I moved to Buffalo, I quickly discovered that driving during rush hour meant sitting still for long periods, then quickly accelerating when the car ahead of you moved forward (because if you waited, someone else would try to cut in front of you), and then immediately stopping short to avoid hitting the car in front of you, which had suddenly stopped.

It took me a full year not to think about it all. the. time.

Also, it was easy to get lost in Buffalo and the surrounding towns, because whoever planned the layout was determined to keep the people of color out of the white neighborhoods and so everywhere you went, it was like a maze. (I don't know if that's actually why the cities were so oddly designed, but I do know that that's the reason the metro (underground train) was never completed.)

So the great thing about living here, even with the huge increase in population density I'm experiencing in moving from Tiny City to Bigger City, is that rush hour traffic is really not so bad, and most streets are laid out in a clear grid. This means that, while I do get lost, I can generally find my way again. And I'm almost never sitting in traffic.

Only sometimes...not.

Friday I spent about an hour driving (er, sitting) in rush hour traffic on the highway trying unsuccessfully to find a flu shot clinic that would take both me and Bean. I followed the Health Dept. website's guide and used Google Maps to get directions, which I followed to the letter, until I had that experience that some of you will recognize, in which I realized I was clearly not on the same road that the directions thought I was on. At that point, I had no choice but to give up in disgust, as it was past the clinic's closing time, anyway. So I headed back home, unshotted. During much of our drive in somewhat tense conditions - because I had no clue where I was going and there was a lot of traffic in all directions - Bean WOULD NOT SHUT UP, so that I was pretty sure I was going to end up sobbing in my car by the side of the road, banging my face on the steering wheel like Don Music.

On Saturday morning, I was willing to have another go at the flu shots, especially since Bean was in that narrow window between colds and I wanted to catch him while he was healthy. After plying him with pancakes, I headed off toward what I thought would be the nearest clinic (not the same one from the day before). We got hopelessly lost (took the wrong damn county road, and by the way, would it hurt to actually NAME roads?). It took me an hour just to find the place, and another 40 minutes just to get in. Bean then tried hiding under the chair, but by this time I was in no mood, and we both got our shots (and Bean, surprisingly, did quite well after the initial hiding reflex).

On Sunday afternoon, Bean had a birthday party to attend. I'd known about it for a couple of days, and I'd also known that I should probably look up the address online so I would be able to find it. However, I was either too lazy or too convinced of my own ability to find things (after all, I'd managed to find clinic number two, hadn't I?), so I didn't bother. Bean took forever to get ready, and I was watching the end of a movie, so we didn't actually leave until shortly after the party had begun (it was scheduled to go on for three hours, so I figured it would be ok to be a little late). I kept reading the invitation and looking at the map, and I had no clue where the place was, so I called the house and got directions before heading into downtown in rainy snow during a hockey game.

Apparently, the people hosting the party weren't sure how to get there, either, or maybe they just had a wicked sense of humor, because instead of sending me along the river, which would have been the simplest, most straightforward way to go, they had me drive through the heart of downtown in all the hockey traffic. Twice. I had to call three more times before I found the place. An hour later. For the record, it was probably a seven-minute drive from our house.

Bean, for his part, was great, and only blamed me once for not having gotten directions online. And he had a fabulous time at the party.


Green said...

I once got lost deep in a bad section of Miami on the way to a baby shower. I do not speak Spanish. I look very white. Nobody would speak English to me, even when I started with "por favor, donde esta..." at a chain hotel which you'd think would get people helping you.

Ultimately I called my parents in New York, hysterically crying because at this point I was so lost I didn't even know how to get back home either, and my father had to go online and use Mapquest and read it to me over the phone.

In four years I only went into Miami three times.

Glad your kid got to the party and had fun.

Anonymous said...

There is not only bad traffic in my new neighborhood, but there are also insanely long red lights. Some things that have helped me that may also help you-
meditations while stuck in traffic or at a red light. There are meditations that aren't so deep that you can still be mindful of what's going on around you on the road.

I invested in some nice CD's, some are music, some are stand up comedians and some are motivational speakers.

I also keep drinks in my trunk, like mountain dew amp or Pom. If I am stuck in traffic or a red light, I reward myself by throwing the car in park, going back to the trunk, getting one out, and going back into the car and drinking it.