Navigating the Grid
I’ve officially relocated to Arizona. I’m (mostly) unpacked, and I’ve started working my way down a list of to-do items: obtaining a new license, opening a new bank account, being fingerprinted for my new job.
There is still one thing, though, I have yet to in my new home state: drive.
Arizonians and those who frequent the Valley of the Sun have a directional mantra.
“It’s a grid,” they say.
(In fact, following “it’s a dry heat”, this could be the piece of wisdom I’ve heard the most.)
They’re referring to the predictable layout of the streets in Phoenix and the surrounding area. This is meant to be reassuring but, for me, it conjures images of math class, protractors, and confusion. Lots of confusion.
It’s impossible to understand my fear without understanding my driving history. In all the ways that truly matter, I’m a great driver. I’ve never had a speeding ticket. I’ve been involved in one automobile accident, but I wasn’t at fault. My flaws as a driver come solely from my directional sense. Street names mean nothing to me and, admittedly, directional words (north, south, etc.) don’t mean much, either.
Back in Kentucky, I knew only one way to get to the places I needed to go: work, the grocery store, the restaurants I enjoyed. If there was road work or an accident that required me to reroute, I would be gripped with immediate panic. My friends joked that without Kroger (my local grocery store in Kentucky, called Fry’s in Arizona—another thing to grow accustomed to!) as a point of reference, I’d likely never find my way around.
This likely seems silly in the era of GPS and Google Maps, but being lost in an unfamiliar area is the stuff of nightmares for me. All I can do is cross my fingers and jump right in.
Oh, and buy a sunshade for my car. I hear those are pretty important around here.