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May 22, 2009

After a week containing a good deal of bending, squatting, lifting and reaching, a trip to the grocery store sounded almost like heaven. You mean I could accomplish some job that needed to by done just by mostly sitting and a little walking around?! Not only that, but it afforded me some autonomy that I’ve been missing lately, being a task that I appointed, understood, and could do without any instruction. Almost. The roads around here are much different from the grids and interstates that I’m used to, and everything is far away. Joel fixed me up with directions, with a little help from Google Maps, which said the trip would take almost an hour (but Joel said it would be less). I fit that into the schema I grew up with, and it compared to a trip to Erie, which was where we went for back-to-school shopping or to have dinner and a movie. Certainly not just to go the grocery store. Even in my small town we could walk to the grocery store. Granted, there are closer places to buy food here, but I had to go there for the little natural foods store (comparable to Rosewood Market, which was, alas, two blocks from my house in Columbia) where I would get my wheat for grinding to make bread.

So after running back in the house for a couple cds, and armed with Joel’s directions, I headed out on my journey, looking forward to at least an hour and a half of completely justified sitting. I was really enjoying the sun and the scenery–rocky rivers and little streams that wind a dance with the road through dense wood or open places where you can see the hills around, quaint cottages, old stone walls, and, my favorite, the sprawling old farmhouses (like the one I now live in) that seem to go on forever with layer after layer of additions, storage areas and even barns attached to the house–when a minivan came up behind me. Now, I really didn’t want to be rushed on these unfamiliar roads, especially since the van I was driving has such a high center of gravity, and really bounces around and feels out of control on windy or bumpy roads like you find here. The signs are always kind enough to warn you that there is a reduced speed limit ahead, but never really extend the courtesy to telling you that the speed limit is going up, so when you see a 55 sign you just have to feel insecure that maybe you have been holding up this person behind you unnecessarily for who knows how long.

Well, I turned onto another road (actually, the same route number, but with a turn in it, which is another thing that makes the driving around here confusing to me) and it had two lanes, so the minivan could pass me. I relaxed and chuckled at the license plate, BELYDNC.

Soon after that I had my only navigational mishap. I was looking for one West St. exit. The road was widening and narrowing with various ramps, and where one of them started there was a sign that said “WEST ST. NEXT RIGHT.” It reminded me of conversations I’ve had with my students about the difference between ‘this Friday’ and ‘next Friday,’ and as I was feeling smart for understanding the subtleties of the use of those words ‘next’ and ‘this’ in English, I saw another sign on that very same ramp that said WEST ST. with an arrow pointing away following the ramp! That should have been “WEST ST. THIS RIGHT!” Well, it was too late and I missed it, and lexical subtleties notwithstanding, I had to make another turn and go through my first roundabout ever to get back on track.

I did my grocery shopping and even threw in an uncharted trip to the bank and gas station (where one man who had been waiting behind me apparently got very frustrated that I was filling my tank, gave me a dirty look, and peeled away to a different pump, and another lady kindly pointed out that my gas door was open and I told her that it’s broken and doesn’t close) without further difficulties. Well, it was a little difficult to find some of the things I was looking for. But eventually I did find them, except for black beans, which must either have been out of stock or for some mysterious reason kept in a different place from all the other beans, so I settled for pinto.

On the way home I was testing every landmark I passed, trying to remember if I’d seen it on the way up. Every so often there was a sign assuring me I was still on the same road, but no way I would know if I’d missed my turn. I noticed a familiar minivan passing me. The license plate–BELYDNC! How funny, I thought. We both went into town to do our errands and now we’re heading home at the same time. They were turning, though, so I thought, well no, maybe they’re not going home–but then I realized, that was the turn I had forgotten I needed to make, too, to stay on the same route! I came quite close to missing it and would have driven on in oblivion in the boonies, somewhere west of my particular boonie, for who knows how long. But thanks to that driver who had been making me so nervous earlier, I stayed on course.

It’s amazing how much of what we do we do on autopilot by habit and familiarity. In this new place, getting home from the grocery store with everything on my list almost seemed like a real accomplishment.


One Comment leave one →
  1. Mom permalink
    May 24, 2009 5:02 pm

    I love reading your blog. I think I have some black beans in the pantry!

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