If Lost, Please Return To…

by Rachel on August 13, 2010

What have I been up to this week? Oh you know, the usual. Work, exercise, and getting lost every freaking day.

After nearly crashing my car making the left-hand turn to do so, I went into Barnes & Noble yesterday seeking assistance.

houston street map

First and foremost I should say that, yes, I have a GPS and I use Google maps and all that shizz. But that isn’t what I need right now. I just can’t get a firm grasp on geography when I’m looking at a computer screen. I need a map that I can turn around and that lets me see the big picture without zooming. I don’t want to zoom. I want to physically move the streets closer to my face and then turn them upside down, because that will somehow help me.

I’ve been getting lost every day this week (sometimes several times a day) for a couple reasons. First, now that I’ve moved into my apartment, I’m taking completely different routes than I did before. And now, with my own car, apartment, and, well, life, I’ve been forced to go new places, to do those “new in town” errands by myself. Lots of new destinations (although I totally got lost going to and from work on Tuesday).

I don’t really get lost so much as “turned around.” This has always been my sense of direction. I don’t see the road I need till I’m right there and — oops! — I missed it. So I just turn around at the next available spot and then it’s fine. But the thing is, in Michigan, where the traffic isn’t bad, and in NYC, when you’re on foot, it’s way easier to turn around. When you’re in a car in Houston, turning around to go the right way is a huge ordeal.

Plus, I’m missing even more turns here than I’m used to. Quite often, it’s because I’m not sure if my GPS considers “left turn” and “U-turn” the same thing and if “keep right” and “bear right” are the same…and as I’m squinting at the GPS to figure out where the green arrow is, I’m passing both of my options. Half the time, I’m perfectly aware that I need to bear right, but I just can’t get over quickly enough to do so. So I’m trying and it’s not happening and I’m just watching my route bear right as I’m going straight.

And somehow, whenever I attempt to turn around to fix the problem, it’s never that simple. Somehow, one-ways get in the way, or the GPS has already calculated a new route for me, and so I know how I can easily turn around but it’s already directing me to an alternate way. And because I have no clue which way is up, I just go with it.

Another reason I miss my turns is because the traffic here is ridiculous. And not just the traffic but the drivers. When I first came here, I rolled my eyes at Eric’s road rage. Now…I get it. It’s not so much rage as it is bitter sarcasm. “No…no it’s cool. I get it. I totally see why you’re braking in the left lane on the highway when there is no traffic. Why wouldn’t you?” I found myself doing it before I even realized it…and now I do it as both a passenger and a driver. “Oh, hey, no it’s cool. You can totally go in front of me. There’s room. I mean, two feet is for sure room for your truck. Go right on ahead. Great, thanks.”

Then, quite often when I’m lost, I see something I recognize, and I get excited, thinking, OK, I must be getting close! But then I can’t remember why I recognize it. Did I see it when I was heading to work…or heading to Eric’s apartment? A landmark taken out of context is really no help at all. It just gives me a false sense of direction and makes me think I’m heading the right way. Sure I’m heading the right way — but to where, exactly?

The map should help. Once I know north, south, east, and west, my sense of direction improves dramatically. I prefer to get directions this way. Where is that place? Oh it’s east of here. OK perfect. Then I can do it without many problems. But without any sense of what the city looks like from a bird’s-eye-view, I’m just totally screwed, driving around aimlessly, wasting gas, wondering if I’ll ever get to my destination.

Sometimes getting lost isn’t so bad. In an attempt to find Chipotle for lunch yesterday, I got lost, but ended up finding a Whole Foods with the best salad bar I’ve had yet in the city. And when leaving work and going the right direction for the first time all week, I actually found the way to Chipotle!

But other times it is bad. The other thing about Houston is there’s no real distinction between good areas of the city and bad areas. So it’s like I get distracted looking at the mansion I could never afford, having an imaginary debate with Eric over whether we should get another car or another nanny, and then, before I know it, I’ve missed my turn and I’m having a kinda-not imaginary debate with the chick on the corner over whether she gives bjs for crack or for meth.

So that’s what I’ve been doing all week. Getting turned around.

Ridiculous.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Marg August 13, 2010 at 9:58 am

haha, i feel like no one can drive in this city!!!! My commute is an hour each way and it kills me. The worst for me is downtown, I can never get out of there and the gps loses it’s signal. I’ll need to check out a whole foods though, I’m loving HEB’s salad bar.

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2 Dori August 13, 2010 at 10:05 am

I was actually wondering about you finding your way around there. I’m sure that before you know it, you will know the city well and won’t be able to even imagine ever not knowing it. It takes a little time!

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3 Katie August 13, 2010 at 10:13 am

Hey, you’ve found Whole Foods, Chipotle, and B&N… I think you’re off to a great start. I just had a job interview in Boston. Holy shit.

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4 Manon August 13, 2010 at 10:57 am

Hahaha….I had to go to Houston a few dreaded times for work when I lived in Austin, and I got lost EVERY TIME. And totally get the, “one minute I’m lost in a sea of beautiful mansions, and the next I’m making sure my doors are locked and hoping to f’ing GOD I don’t run out of gas because I’m pretty sure not even COPS will come into this neighborhood.” Eeeeeek!

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5 Trinidad Pena August 13, 2010 at 11:45 am

Eeek! I am so navigationally challenged! Good luck!

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6 Kendra August 13, 2010 at 7:17 pm

Oh my gosh! I just moved to Dallas this week from a small college town (okay, fine…the state capital, but definitely not Texas-sized!) in Florida and I am having the exact same experience. I swear my GPS is trying to trick me with all the bear right/keep right nonsense and I can’t get a handle on the north-south-east-west situation. Forget U-Turns. Luckily Dallas drivers seem to be pretty nice – but it could have more to do with me hitting the brakes and leaving my turn signal on until somebody feels bad for me and lets me over!

Good luck figuring out your new city!

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