For the first time in my Tulane career, I have a car here. It's gone about as well as can be expected. I don't know if I should put this on the internet, but I'm pretty sure some kind of statute of limitations is up, so here it goes: I got my license out of a cracker jack box. In theory I took a test--but the lady chalked up my inability to back up along a curb, that right hand red light I ran, and the fact that I didn't know what mirrors were for as nerves. Needless to say, there was a healthy learning curve that first year I was "legally" allowed to drive. Now I'm older and wiser and I know you have to yield to oncoming traffic when turning left, but still--not the best behind the wheel over here. Also I crack under pressure when the pressure is changing lanes.
Combine that with my complete and utter lack of a sense of direction and you have a gal who does not get anywhere easily. For the first few weeks I was driving around New Orleans, I planned an extra hour to get where I was going. Why? Because the trip would inevitably involve me crying into my GPS and phone while both tried to give me directions on how to get to the grocery store. Also, I'm a very distracted driver. Sometimes I hold very animated conversations with myself in the car. When I catch other, normal drivers looking at me, I pretend I'm talking on my cell phone. They don't know.
Adding to my distress is the fact that New Orleans is the least intuitive city on the planet to get around in, because that Mississippi River just refuses to pick a direction and stick to it. Use the river as a landmark? RIGHT. I'm on unsteady ground as it is--I generally think that whatever way I'm facing must be North*, and now I have to try and keep a mental map of the bends in this twisty windy river? Not a chance. I may or may not also have a theory that Mt. Hood is somehow able to move around when I'm trying to navigate Portland. Not quite sure how I'm going to prove that one, but I feel sure I'm right.
The good news is that I have discovered some wonderful things while getting lost in my own neighborhood. For one thing, I found out I actually live in a neighborhood, and not just on one janky street named Broadway. For another thing, I found out that there is a cemetery smack dab in the middle of my neighborhood. It looks pretty friendly during the day time, sort of picturesque in way that only a New Orleans cemetery could manage. There are some nice, homey tombs, and people sit around on their front porches facing it during the day.
The keyword here is during the day. Because one night, I was lost coming home, and I mistakenly drove past. I have never experienced anything more terrifying. Death lurked in every corner. Vampires leaned casually against tombs, skeletons sat around and played dice. For the first time I used all of my mirrors while driving, eyes flicking from front to side to side to back like it was a properly administered driver's exam. I cursed this over abundance of imagination and underwhelming sense of direction I was born with with a vehemence that even I didn't know I had in me. And trust me when I say, I have some vehemence.
And that was the night I decided to invest in a map, so that I never have to be traumatized again. That was also the night I started singing janky Broadway's praises.
Actually it really is a nice neighborhood--Lindsay doesn't trust it but I like it. It's charming. Endearing. There are even a few questionable neighborhood characters. Does it get better than that?
*This may or may not be genetic. Hint: it is. Thank you G. Claire.