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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Further Adventures in Driving, and Why I Live Overseas

Most days, I stay home all day with the children.  I wake up a five, go to bed around nine-thirty, and often spend every single minute between those hours inside my house.  If we're feeling especially indulgent, I will take the children for a walk around the neighborhood and we might stop and feed the turtles some lettuce.  But that doesn't happen every day.

I don't clean my own toilets, but I feel like I spend most days keeping quite busy schooling the children, exercising, cooking dinner, sewing, painting, managing our finances, and keeping the fights to a minimum.  I know that sometimes stay-at-home-mom conjures up images of women sitting around and watching soap operas, but that's not me.  We don't have a server-thingy that lets us watch Netflix or Hulu, so even if I wanted to watch soap operas, it wouldn't be an option.

Some days, however, I get a break.  And although I don't deserve a break - after all, I don't clean my own toilets - I certainly enjoy a break.

So today when my housekeeper showed up, I told her my plans for the day: leave to go out to lunch at twelve, followed by a haircut, and then a trip to the grocery store.  I would probably be back around four-thirty.  And hopefully the children wouldn't be too terrible.

After a morning of school, I fed them all lunch, put the boys down for a nap, put the girls upstairs for quiet time, and got in my car.  All.  By.  Myself.

I found the restaurant fairly easily after only running one red light (the traffic lights are on small upright poles by the side of the road, so if you're not looking they're very easy to miss.  That's when I'm grateful for dip plates).  I went to park, found an open space near the restaurant that looked like it could be used for parking, and pulled into a side road/alley to turn around.  While slowly backing up and looking out for passing cars, I suddenly came to a crunching halt.  I had looked out for cars, but not for random light poles.  After parking in a different space (everyone here follows you so closely that backing up to parallel park is almost impossible), I inspected the damage.  One slightly cracked light on the bumper.  A little ding.  Nothing to worry about.

Lunch was fairly unremarkable/somewhat inedible, but I was perfectly happy to sit and enjoy the rare, rare company of fellow adults.  Company that did not include any children trying to interrupt, or have part of my chocolate-frosted brownie, or whine about how long it was taking, or bothering other people.  I enjoyed not having to tell anyone to finish their food or just sit down instead of standing on your chair.

I know I will miss the days of sweet kisses and cuddly story time and hugs that make just about anything better, but I will not miss telling people to sit down.

Lunch was followed by a haircut.  When I got into (my now damaged) car and pulled up the address on my GPS, I was told that my destination was 2.8 miles away.  I looked at the clock.  Nine minutes past two.  My appointment was at two-thirty.  Plenty of time.

I'm still not sure of the legality (although I probably shouldn't care.  Gotta love those red plates) of mid-street U-turns, and my car was parked the wrong direction for my route.  So I thought I would be clever and loop back around on a convenient side street that looked like it should take me where I wanted to go. But after ten minutes of squeezing past cars, getting stuck in a tight spot that involved me, a Mercedes driving towards me, a Nissan driving diagonally away from me, and a car that was perpendicular to the Nissan and trying to back out into the Mercedes (all surrounded by parked cars), I found myself in a dead end.

After turning around (with no light poles in sight this time), I was back on my merry way, with plenty of time.  Or so I thought.  

I have a GPS.  It is a good thing.  Without it, I would rarely go outside my neighborhood, and when I was forced, I would be in a cold sweat the entire time.  I'm grateful that somebody here decided that making a GPS was a good business venture.  It blesses me with the gift of mobility.

But it doesn't really give it in any kind of intelligent way.  After all, it's just a software program and can't reasonably be expected to realize that although going through town is a shorter distance, it is in no conceivable way going to take less time than going the longer, faster route.  However, I'm no one to talk because obviously I don't know anything either.  That's why I'm relying on a GPS.

So through town we went, together.

This picture doesn't do it justice, but look at the road on the left.  It fits several cars beside each other.  Look at the roads in the middle of the pictures.  It fits one.  Maybe.  Now imagine driving through those roads for 2.8 miles.  Well, to be fair I had driven some, so by this point it was less.  Perhaps 2.3 miles.  And that is how it takes from 2:09 to 2:48 to drive 2.8 miles.  And of course you have to park, too.

By the time my hair was trimmed, blow-dried, and newly fabulous, the afternoon was coming to a close.  I knew that Brandon was trying to come home early to have a conference call, so I rung him up.

"I'm in the area.  Will be you be leaving soon?"
"Yes, in about twenty minutes."
"Great, I'll be there in about that amount of time."

Yes, it really does take twenty minutes to drive that far.  But when you're trying to avoid people backing up in the middle of the road, narrowing down from four lanes to two because of double- and triple- parked cars, swerving around others turning right from the left side of the road, and of course pedestrians, it gets a little hairy. And don't forget one-way streets.  It takes awhile.

But it was all okay.  Because I was doing it all in my solitary lonesome self.  I love living overseas.


kelley said...

Can you imagine what that expedition would have been like with the kids in the car? I've heard we disgusting Americans love our big cars and our big streets. Just hearing about driving on little foreign roads gives me a panic attack.

PaulaJean said...

I was waiting for you to say that it took an hour to pick up Brandon and he missed his call, but, no. Whew!

UnkaDave said...

Good! Now that you've dinged the car you don't have to be so careful. Trash it some more and no one will want to steal it.