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No freedom on the freeways for me

“OH, she can do it. Just try”, they chirp at me. I look at their faces, frown and tell them for the umpteen time that I do not want to drive on freeways.

Again, these are the noises people make when they can do something and they want you to comprehend ( stupid) how terribly easy it is. “You only have to follow the signs. Really, It’s no big deal. Do it a few times and you’ll get it.”

Over the years I have driven only in the city. I have my routes and shortcuts, feeling quite in control, not worried about losing my way; however, I will not drive beyond the city because I worry that I will not know the entrances and exits and will lose my way. I chortle that I’m not much good in space .

I laugh and retort that I am spatially challenged, but it is that fear of losing my way, and like the old song, “Did (s)he ever return? No (s)he never returned… driving the streets of Boston …” that plays non-stop in my head.

This is no new phobia I harbour. Even as a girl, when it was necessary to choose between going right or left, I was pinioned at the centre of a dilemma. So I enjoyed wandering aimlessly, picking the flowers, traversing a new path,just moving at my own speed unencumbered by specific directions.

Yet I wanted to travel and in my early university years, more times than not, l’ld jump on a train, perhaps a destination in mind, perhaps not, hitchhiking on foot or boat throughout Europe, intrigued by the name or story of some location, meandering yet managing to arrive back home on the exact day planned: having seen paintings at the Rijskmuseum; rambling on the streets of Paris; checking out Checkpoint Charlie…These were the days that you could sojourn at a nunnery under a goose down quilt for $5.00 a night or barely spend $10 a day on hostels, food and transportation in Europe.

For me, it had been an added adventure, an extra bonus to veer off the usual followed paths, to discover in wandering, something new and unexpected. With time on my hands I could laze on a slow boat in Switzerland, drift on the Rhine, survey new environs, float, reflect, knowing I didn’t have to be anywhere at a specific time, cruise, snooze, relax. No pressure then, a girl by herself on the byways of someplace, rambling, stopping, discovering, not caught up in the worry of exiting at a particular sign and reaching a destination determined by a signpost along a particular route.

Years later, it is different. You must go from point A to Point B. It is not so much a ramble but a connect between locations-which might be fine; however, freeways do not work that way. Often, it is confusing when the signpost suddenly appears and you are stuck in the wrong lane, cars between you and the offramp impossible to traverse, you must remain on the freeway, no longer free.

Worse yet are the interlocking freeways from which you cannot escape to correct your error. Often when you have erred, you can take the next exit and circle back, but on freeways there is no such opportunity for second pondering thoughts. If you drive, you better know where you are going, the freeways proclaim because there will be no offramp for you for at least 20 miles and you may just arrived in Pasadena .After the rose parade. OMG.

In San Diego, they circle round and boom! You are on another freeway taking you off into a new direction. I see the signpost for Los Angeles and wonder should I get there, will my cousins be home and will they drive me back to the apartment in San Diego? Could they attach a bungee cord from their car to mine and lead me back? Maybe I should just ditch the car and find a bus? But in the meantime, I’m stuck on the freeway and the approaching exits are not venues to an end, but the beginnings of other journeys to other places, all circling back to alien destinations. Trying to correct your mistake and identify your destination becomes an exercise of frustration as you watch your destination recede further and further.

“But it’s easy, “they continue to tell you. “You’ll get used to it. “He whispers, “ She panics”. But truthfully ,I don’t panic, I am filled with anxiety : of being lost and not knowing how to get home. I know my limits and I can walk to the nearby mall filled with colourful stores and I can even drive locally for miles to other areas and remember the sequence of streets and end up where I intended to go, but freeways are an entirely different matter.

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