Rudy, Charlie, and Me
“East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet.” Those words were penned by Rudyard Kipling around 1889. He was a man ahead of his time. If he were to drive through the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex today he’d find himself on the highway to heaven before making it home to write his famous ballad. Today the rest of us can only hope we have better luck.
Driving in this area reminds me of the old Kingston Trio song, “MTA.” In it a hapless commuter named Charlie boards the Boston subway with only ten cents, unaware of a subway fare increase. The conductor refuses to allow Charlie off the train without paying another five cents. As a result, poor Charlie “must ride forever ‘neath the streets of Boston. He’s the man who never returned.” (Why Charlie’s wife, who hands him a sandwich when he passes through the station every day “at quarter past two”, never thinks to include a nickel with his lunch escapes me.)
Not once have I driven the freeway system here without getting lost in its tangle of concrete spaghetti. Yogi Berra once said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” This area has so many forks you could set a table for the entire population of north Texas. And even if you are fortunate enough to take the one pointing to your destination, odds are you’ll end up somewhere else. The amount of road construction currently underway simply exacerbates the situation. For that matter, I’m beginning to think the traffic barrels here must outnumber the humans by at least 10 to 1.
Following is a typical episode in my ongoing struggle with the DFW freeway system.
In December I loaded the dog into the car and headed for DFW Airport to pick up my son Jake who was coming for Christmas. Turning onto the access road to the airport highway I saw this sign: “Ramp closed. Detour.” My reaction was one of horror based on experience. “Oh, no! Please! This means I’ll get lost,” I thought wildly. Sure enough, not only did I miss my turn-off, I ended up going northwest instead of southeast and through a town miles out of my way. I managed to stay calm and eventually made a left turn onto the highway I tried to access in the first place! Of course, now I’m running late so I decide to call my son on my cell phone. I reach for my purse. It’s not there. What?!! Where is it? Daring some furtive glances into the back seat I fail to locate it. It’s not there either! For the first time in my life I’m driving with no license, no I.D., no money, no cell phone! Son-of-a-b—-!!
Eventually arriving at the airport I realize there are three separate terminals for American Airlines. I drive through them all before finally spying my son at the third. We hug, I apologize for being late, and tell him he’ll have to drive because I’m not legal. On the way out I tell him he’ll have to pay the toll, too, because I don’t have any money. By now Jake probably thinks his mother shouldn’t be allowed out of the house, much less drive a car.
We decide to stop at a liquor store to replenish my supply before re-entering Tarrant County (only beer and wine are sold there). We drive, we get lost. I consult the Mapsco again and again but, despite the street guide, every which way we turn we end up some place else. Finally, Jake makes another turn and–Lo and behold!–we arrive at the liquor store. “How did you do that?” I asked. “We tried everything else,” he answered. “I decided we might as well just wing it.”
The trunk loaded with booze–he paid for that, too–we arrived home without further incident. Once there, the dog uncrossed his legs, jumped from the car, and immediately and gratefully relieved himself most copiously. Jake and I uncorked one of the bottles he had just bought and had a very satisfying, hard-earned drink.
Oh, yes. I found my purse, by the way. It was on the workbench where I had laid it while putting the dog in the car. What a ditz!
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