Where the Streets Have Too Many Names
Posted by wendiwendy
We’ve been living in our new town for about a month and a half, and I have yet to drive anywhere. I’ve been driven, you see, but I haven’t been behind the wheel of a car myself. Partly it’s because Dave knows his way around town and I don’t, and partly (mainly) it’s because his only ear with some hearing is on his right side, so if he drives then we can still carry on a conversation. (If I drive, his deaf ear is next to me and it’s very difficult for us to talk to each other.) But there’s another reason: I can’t figure out the street names.
I had no problem tooling around in my Chicago suburb, with the traffic from hell and crazy drivers on the expressway who get exasperated if you’re only driving 80 mph in the slow lane. You’d think moving to a small town bordered by farmland, with dirt roads here and there, would be super-simple. You would be wrong.
Every street seems to have a minimum of two names, and most have three or four. And all the names are used interchangeably. We had a couple of streets near us in Illinois that had two names – Rt. 53 was Rohlwing Road, for instance – but nobody ever used both names. We called it ‘53’ and that was that.
I tend to be a lazy passenger, and I’m terrible with directions to begin with. I mean, I can follow directions with no problem and work a GPS like a champ, but if you tell me to go west or east, I will just stare at you. Then I’ll say, “Um, so do you mean turn left? Which way is east?”
When we drive around (and believe me, we spend a lot of time driving around because it’s fun checking out the area), I don’t pay any attention to the roads Dave is taking. I don’t remember, ever, how to get somewhere. Now, this isn’t totally my fault because Dave has a habit of taking a different route every time we visit a specific destination. “Hmmm,” he’ll say, “I wonder where this road goes?” And off we go, until we reach a road familiar to him. He says it’s his way of figuring out the street layout in town. It just confuses me, so I enjoy the scenery and trust that he can get us where we need to go.
Yesterday, though, I decided to pay more attention to how we get to town. I mean, if I ever had to run to Shelton’s for some groceries or go to the pharmacy in town, I would have no idea how to get there. NONE. I’d have to look up the address online and then rely completely on the GPS.
I pulled out my notepad as we headed to Goodwill to look for funky lamps for the living room. “I’m going to write down how to get to some of the places in town,” I told Dave confidently. “I really should know my way around by now, you know?”
I carefully noted whether Dave turned left or right (no east, west, north or south for me) and the street names. A couple of times I had to catch myself because I started daydreaming and gazing out the window, not paying attention, but all was well until we got near town.
“So this is Oak Street?” I confirmed as I wrote.
“Well, it’s also Main Street.”
“Oh, like Main Street where downtown is? Okay.” I added ‘Main St.’ in parentheses after Oak Street.
“It’s also M-51,” Dave continued.
At this point I was getting confused and a little frustrated as I said, “And isn’t 51 the same as North Fifth Street?”
Let me just pause here. As I was writing this, I asked Dave to confirm that North M-51 and North Fifth Street were the same. He said yes, and then added that it is also the same as 11th Street.
See what I mean?!
My directions stop at that point, not only because I was getting a little excited as I argued my point that it was ridiculous for one street to have three or four names, but also because Dave did another one of his detours to find out if we could get to Broadway Street from there.
Did I also mention that M-139 is the same as 51?
Even the GPS gets confused. When we punched in the address for Lehman’s Orchard, she directed us to a home about a quarter mile before the actual destination. “You have arrived!” she announced cheerfully, and Dave obediently turned into the driveway while I said doubtfully, “Um, this looks like somebody’s house.” As we pulled up and stopped, their (very large) dog trotted over and stuck his head in Dave’s window. We carefully and nervously turned around, continued on up the road (no longer expecting to find the orchard) and … there it was, just a little ways up.
When Dave tried to enter the address for the Battle Creek VA Hospital (we’ll talk in another post about how I feel about the VA’s handling of his appointments), Maggie the GPS refused to accept it. According to her, there were no addresses above 5100 on that street, even though the hospital was pretty darn sure their street number was 5500. “I bet the street has a different name that Maggie doesn’t know,” I said helpfully. In the end, I printed some directions from Google Maps for Dave to use.
So anyway, at least I can get myself out of my general neighborhood. Anything beyond that, I just hand Dave the car keys and enjoy the ride.