Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Driving Miss Lindsay

I spent Monday and Tuesday out in the suburbs for a leadership conference. In order to get there, I had to drive. You should know two things...I hate driving (probably because I’m not that great at it) and I haven’t owned a car in almost a decade. I drive a car for maybe a couple of hours every six months (if that). So now I need to submit myself to Chicago rush hour traffic AND navigate a seemingly foreign territory. People request directions or driving opinions from me like “should I take the Dan Ryan or the Stevenson”. It takes a good minute before I realize these are major interstates (90/94 and 55). All of the streets I’m familiar with have street parking, so I’m at a total loss with highways or tollways. Also, I am ignorant enough not to know about anything outside of my area code. Okay that sounds bad, but if someone says they are from Gurney, Downers Grove or Rolling Meadows, it might as well be Iowa. I have no idea what all the suburbs are called or where they are located. I’ve heard of at least two dozen, so it is simpler just not to care.
So there I am, driving to Oak Brook (which Google called Lombard...or what I call west-ish from downtown). I am on interstate 290 which is a virtual parking lot (not kidding...took me 80 minutes to go 21 miles). I want to jump off and take the side streets but then I didn’t know exactly where I was going, and I was too frightened to suddenly veer out of the center lane and cut someone off. Merging alone was enough to raise my heart rate...and I was in a two door VW Bug...yes, the car was like four feet long and I STILL had anxiety issues about it fitting between traffic.
Having a car (a rental which I would be returning Tuesday afternoon) is a total luxury and I wanted to capitalize on the opportunity by running all the errands I ever wanted to do (but didn’t have the means). I’m talking about picking up paint, using coupons and gift cards for Target, getting more than two bags of groceries (that is about all I can carry without my fingers going numb). You get the idea. Plus I wanted to go to Olive Garden. I know, strange...but there are NO Olive Gardens in the city and my last meal would consist of their salad and breadsticks.
I heard rumors there was a giant shopping mall near the conference center, but I couldn’t find it on the map. I asked around and got some vague directions. I am a small part of the population who doesn’t own an I-Phone or GPS (Garmin, etc.), so I am winging it somewhat knowing Chicago is to the East. Well they suck at giving directions, because I went left at the fork (as instructed) and the mall was to the right. After about ten minutes of driving, and having the neighborhood turn from bright SUV driving burb to places with bars on the windows and an abundance of Aldi grocery stores, I turned around and started over again. I stopped at an Ulta (to use a 50% and $2 off coupons) and got better directions. I was a bit disappointed with the mall because all off the stores were the same and Express didn’t have my size in jeans (I had another coupon for $25 off $50 and the jeans were buy one get one 50% off). Honestly, there is a serious flaw in your purchasing philosophy if you are completely devoid of sizes 6 to 10 and have at least three dozen size 0 long!
Instead of backtracking 20 minutes, I decided to try out my natural guidance system and find Chicago on my own. I knew what interstate I should hit, but the directions totally threw me off. I was to merge on to hwy 20...but it was listed at 20-south or 20-north. Wait...Chicago is EAST, and I know this hwy leads to Chicago. According to the signs, I could either head towards Rockford or Indiana. What! I gave up and drove back to the conference center to orientate myself off of the printed reverse directions.
The next day, I was a little more confident in my navigation skills (after spending over an hour wandering back and forth around that area). I set out during lunch to find a gas station. Of course I failed at finding that, but did stumble across an Olive Garden. Victory!


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