My Dear Reader,
As a very, very new driver, I know that I have a lot to learn about driving. I mean, I haven't felt this stupid since my first day at college! I'm getting the hang of it, little by little, and while I no longer feel the need to pray for the general population every time I put the car in drive, I'm pretty sure that it's going to take a few years before I get completely comfortable behind the wheel. My driving confidence was put to the test, however, when my aunt and uncle asked me to come up to Portland and watch their business for a few days while they were out of town. Since I'd never even been to their office before, I would have to drive over there for a day or two to train. An hour away. By myself.
For those of you who have never been to the City of Roses, let me explain the freeway system to you this way: there's a legend that it was designed by a Mason to resemble Masonic symbols from above. Even if the story isn't true, it proves that the system is so twisted, so chaotic, and so confusing that even Portanders have a hard time making sense of it. That monstrosity is what I, the month-old driver, was going to try to tackle all on my own. Yes.
My aunt assured me that the office was easy to find, as it was right off of I-5, and I'd definitely been a passenger on those freeways so many times that I thought I'd be okay. Or, at least, I made myself believe I'd be okay through self-hypnosis.
I was going along just fine until I got behind this truck that kept speeding up and then putting on its brakes. I try to keep a two-to-three second cushion between me and the car in front of me, which makes it so that I can let up on the gas instead of put on the brakes in most situations. With the traffic, however, I couldn't maintain the cushion and I spent so much of my energy trying not to hit that truck that I didn't realize the freeway was splitting until it was too late. I was in the middle lane, so I thought I'd be fine, but out of the three lanes in I-5, two were turning into 402, and the one I needed wasn't the one I had. I never imagined that it would be so hard to stay on the same road.
By the time I was able to get away from Mr. Speed-and-Stop, I decided to do the logical thing: find a place to park and call somebody for directions. So I turned off the freeway as soon as I felt I could do it safely, and out of all of the places I could have ended up, I found myself at the Portland Zoo. Not only was I lost, but I was now in the vicinity of a large amount of very small children.
The voice mail that my aunt received went something like this:
Cecily: Hi, it's Cecily. Uh, I'm lost . . . and at the zoo. I don't know how I got here, but here I am. At the zoo. I'll be at the office as soon as I figure out how to get there. Thanks!*
My aunt called me back a few minutes to give me directions, in addition to the directions that Madre got off of Mapquest, and I was on my way again. I had the directions written on a piece of paper, and as I got off of the freeway, the paper slipped off of the dashboard and onto the passenger's seat. After the light, it slipped down to the space between the passenger's seat and the door. So I had to wait until the next red light, when I could unbuckle my seat belt and grab it. By that time, however, I found myself in the Portland shipping yards. Arg.
My aunt gave me another set of directions, and I was off again, and pretty sure this time that the directions were simple enough to be Cecily-proof. They were not. I must have missed a sign or something, because I ended up in the Pearl District, the big citiest part of the big city. I was pretty sure that somebody was about to die, because if I didn't get run over by someone, I was probably going to maim one of the bicyclists around me. And I certainly didn't want to ask my aunt for directions three times in twenty minutes. As freaked out as I was, I decided to just try to figure out how to get there myself.
It turned out that the fourth time was the charm; I got there an hour late, but I got there. No one even died, so I was glad about that.
I had to drive back the next day, and as I got closer to Portland, I kept saying, "Stay on the same road, Cecily! Stay on the same road!" Luckily, Mr. Speed-and-Stop was nowhere to be found, because I managed to make it there. On time. On the first try. It helped that my aunt let me borrow her GPS unit.
I am such an idiot.
Regards, best wishes, and safe travels,
*I always say "thanks" at the end of conversations, especially if I don't know how to end them. I know it's weird, and I always feel stupid when I say it, but I figure it's better than nothing.