Saturday, February 6, 2010

Getting Lost in Waukesha: The Full Saga

You've been waiting for this, right? Well, you're getting it anyways. So. Last Friday I attended a Summer Reading Program workshop in the vicinity of Waukesha. The way local conferences work is this: I drive (b/c Sara The Librarian hates to drive) and she navigates (b/c I get lost constantly and with hopeless regularity). All went well and we only got lost twice, and it was just little lostiness, not my normal 30 minutes out of the way where on earth AM I? lostiness.

After our amazing conference, during which we were inspired and instructed by Marge Loch-Wouters (and I am even now working on guilt-free programming for the summer and a whole new scheme for the library blog) someone said "you should go see the new children's department at the Waukesha library!".

"Hmm," said Sara The Librarian. "It's probably not a good idea. We don't have directions."

"Nonsense!" Said I, still in my enthusiastic post-Marge state. "There's a librarian from the Waukesha system who can give us directions. She's got a cool little ipod-ish thing where you can look at maps. It's only three turns and less than five miles away!"

FORTY-FIVE MINUTES LATER, more left turns than I have made in my whole driving history, and we finally arrived. See, what no one had told us was that Waukesha's road grid was laid out by an insane architect 40 years ago.

Streets at intersections spread out like an octopus's arms and do not line up at all. When you are fortunate enough to encounter an actual street sign, it is half the size of normal street signs and strategically placed so that the only way you can see it is over your shoulder as you pass by it, thus discovering you are headed in the wrong direction. Different streets, which do not join up, have the same names. One way streets pop up without warning and disappear just as unnervingly. Streets change their names. Streets with names adhere closely to the Wisconsin-rule-of-street-naming; that all major streets in cities within 20 miles of each other must bear the same names.

But we made it! We arrived! We wandered through the children's department, which was rather nice, still dazed from our state of extended lostness. But we were smart. We were not about to fling ourselves back into the maw of Waukesha's streets without help. We went to the reference librarian for directions.

"One right turn, follow Grand Street, you'll come to the highway" She said.

We set off. Five blocks later, Grand Street ENDED in a street of a totally different name. Now, I do not bear this librarian any ill will. Three years later, there are probably people still hopelessly lost in Illinois from my stint in reference there. I cannot remember the names of the streets bordering my own library. I do not even attempt to give directions.

However, at the time we were quite unhappy about this. I saw a somewhat vacuous youth on the street.

"I'm going to ask" said I, with determination.

"That won't help," said Sara The Librarian. "That guy looks creepy."

"What are we, guys?" said I. "I'm going to ask for directions."

I rolled down my window. The guy looked at us blankly. "Highway 43?" I asked hopefully.


At this point a car drove up. A much-earringed young woman stuck her head out the window, partially obscuring the bushy-haired and bearded guy in the passenger seat. "What do you want?" she asked somewhat aggressively.

Ah. My kind of people. (Hey, I grew up in Austin)

"Highway 43?"

"Do you know where Racine Ave. is?"

"No. We've never been here before."

"You've never been here before??" Looks of obvious shock that we had attempted to dare the horrors of Waukesha's streets. Shaking her head sadly, "Follow us."

And those amazing, lovely, obviously not-native-Waukeshians, led us through a short but complex maze of streets until we reached....

The highway!!

Needless to say, Waukesha has been added to the list Sara The Librarian and I keep of Places-We-Do-Not-Go.

On the bright side, I discovered at the Waukesha library that there are actual Geronimo Stilton comics. I had not known this and it is a good thing to know.

1 comment:

Marge Loch-Wouters said...

Oh man, my side aches from laughing. Thanks for the saga. You made my day!