Monday, January 24, 2005

When commutes go bad

So, here's the deal. I've changed my job but my door-to-door commute stays about the same: 15 minutes. This commute is even simpler than my previous one; I drive west two blocks and then north 15 blocks. Easy, yes? I go to work one way and come home the other way. The way to work passes below a railroad bridge, the way coming home, I drive over the railroad tracks. Today, there was a train stuck there just hanging out with absolutely no thought to the fact that it was 5 pm and I was starving because it had been approximately 30 seconds since I had last eaten. So I turned around and went down the side street I had NEVER been down before. Now, smart people would have said, "Why didn't you go home the way you came to work?" My excuse is that my blood sugar had dropped perciptiously in the 30 seconds since I'd last eaten and my brain had left my skull and had already hopscotched over the non-moving train, leaving just me -- brainless and hunger -- in my car.

So I drove down the side street and took the first major street south that I could. All was going well, until I realized I would have to actually veer East, because the road I wanted to continue on was, well like every other street in this city, under construction. I could still see downtown so I figured, "No big deal, I'll just go that way." Until I realized downtown was to the west of me and so I was officially East of Downtown (tm). Now, if this was a horror flick, this is where the ominous music would start playing and this is where you, the audience, would start screaming at the screen at me saying, "Turn around! Go away! Don't you know there's a GUY WITH A MASK BEHIND THAT DOOR?" But of course, as all heroines in any horror flick do, I kept going EAST OF DOWNTOWN (tm). Just to put this in perspective, I was last East of Downtown (tm) over a year ago, when I was brand new to the city. I headed that way to see a fellow fangirl and when I went to work the next day and revealed that to my co-workers, they were aghast.

"You went EAST OF DOWNTOWN? You're the first person who know who has gone and come back ALIVE."

I am NOT kidding about the all caps. The all caps are part of the experience. My co-workers than elicited a promise from me to never, ever go anywhere without checking with them first. And until today, I was very good. I never went past downtown and hung out in my own little neighborhood.

I started to minorly freak when I came across blocks and blocks dilapidated warehouses, hotels and an abandonned house that had the words "KEEP OUT" printed on the corrugated aluminum siding covering the doors; the words were orange and I knew, without a doubt, they were talking to me. Fortunately, the next block I saw the exit for one of the 80 gazillion highways that intersect this city and even though my goal in life other than never going EAST OF DOWNTOWN (TM) is to stay OFF the highways at all costs, I took it. Not only did I take one highway, I took a second highway after that and breathed a sigh of relief. I was finally, finally back into my neck of the woods. No bright orange signs telling me to keep out here!

However, highway number two had some kind of back-up on the eastbound lane, and remember, my brain had already gone home without me, so when I exited, instead the turning on the road I usually take to go home when my commute hasn't gone so wildly wrong, I was like, "Let me drive along the highway..." Ha. Everyone else wanted to drive along the highway too becuase they didn't want to be stuck ON the highway. So surprised was I by the traffic that I didn't even realize when I'd gotten into the WRONG LEFT TURN LANE. And because of all the traffic, no one would let me back into the lane I needed to be in. Keep in mind, folks, I'm literally a block away from my apartment at this point and I've driven on this road a gazillion times and yet I still got into the WRONG LEFT TURN LANE.

So I ended up behind the bread factory and couldn't figure out how to get out. So I saw a parking lot that seemed to lead out to the road that I had wanted to turn left onto in the first place. So, being the smart person I am, I drove across the rutted, gravel pot-holed parking lot and ended up staring at MORE TRAFFIC. A nice guy in an SUV let me through (Thank you, Nice Guy in SUV!) and then I somehow, my heart in my throat, managed to cross two more lanes so I could take a left turn. Just to keep all of this in perspective, the bread factory faces the road I actually live on. So the fact that I had to turn right, and then make a left turn was just another annoyance -- especially since I had to sit through two cycles of the light. And then, when I finally got myself in the right place, I couldn't take a left turn because cars were blocking the intersection and so I ended up doing another U-turn so I could turn on the opposite end of the street.

I finally got home around 5:45 -- a full 45 minutes after leaving my office which is 15 minutes away. You'll all be pleased to know my brain was here to greet me on my arrival. Also, moral of the story: shortcuts ALWAYS work against you. And now, I need a margarita. So, how was your day?

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