Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Driving in Durham Incident

If you read this blog/like this blog, please comment to let me know! School is fast approaching and I'm deciding wether or not to continue it. Your opinion really counts - turning anonymous comments on just so everyone can voice their thoughts!

The main thing that makes awkward moments funny to me is looking at them in retrospect. As in, enough time has passed that it’s no longer painful and I can look at it unbiased. Or at least more tongue in cheek.

The thing that this blog tends to gloss over is awkward moments, when they actually happen, tend to really suck.

I was set to have an awesome afternoon. I was going to act in my first ever film… as an extra, but I mean, we all have to start somewhere. I spent an hour doing my hair an makeup and picking out a perfect outfit. I double-checked the directions and left on the seemingly simple 15-minute trek with 45 minutes to spare. I was on my game.


Except there is no place on Earth more frustrating and difficult to navigate that Durham. With the possible exception of West Village in NYC, but there are no rainbows and flags and humorously bad sex shops in Durham to make the confusion at least bearable. And eyebrow raising.

I drive along 54 and realized I entered the highway at the wrong spot, somehow missing my exit. Whatever, I’ll be practical. I know it’s near the evil devil campus; I know vaguely where two of the streets on my section of directions are. I know at least that I am headed in the right direction. After driving for a bit I pull into a CVS and ask a cashier where a certain street on my directions is – I know the next cross street well and think it will be easy sailing. I go on my way. I find the road and follow it through snooty suburbia and keep going, going, my eyes peeled for the cross-street I know and am familiar with… and then I hit a dead end.

Did you know that there are two South Roxboro Streets in Durham that aren’t fully connected? I turn around, driving in the opposite direction of the South Roxboro Street that I needed to be on, and stooped so low and desperate to call Lady Mum. Time on the clock: 5 minutes left before I would be late. Perhaps this was salvageable.

After a whiny lecture about “didn’t you get a GPS for Christmas” and a brief tutorial about how to use google maps, we were on our way… and I had wandered far in the opposite direction. Time left: officially five minute late. Potentially breathing room: 10 more minutes.

The thought of being late turns my stomach. I have an obsession with punctuality. And a sensitive stomach.

Went down the same road again, in the opposite direction, and turned where I was supposed to. Amidst a slew of unmarked or only-marked-on-one-side-of-the-street roads, I flew past the second south Roxboro. So panicked, I turned around and gunned it… almost missing the turn.

This turn makes the top five scariest moments in my life. I was going to fast, the turn was really sharp - I cold hear the screeching and burning rubber and a slight sensation of flying like on a rollercoaster - my car careened up on two wheels.

At this point, my hands gripped the wheel so tightly my knuckles were white, my jaw clenched so hard I could feel the click-click-click of my TMJ straining, and I'd even TURNED OFF THE RADIO. Because clearly the quiet helps you read road signs better.

Now a good fifteen minutes late, because not only is Durham confusing but it is BIG, I tore down the correct South Roxboro... and forget the cross street on which I needed to turn. Another call home and Dr. Dad answered the phone in a jovial mood wanting to chat about my day, whose intestines he'd gotten to play with, ect. Finally he handed the phone to Lady mum, who laboriously pulled up Google Maps again. By the time she had invented the wheel but not yet discovered fire, I saw the cross street. Not the next three cross streets on my directions, but the correct street for filming. Zoom, zoom. On fire.

I scanned the buildings for specific building numbers, 3/4 of which had none or were number arbitrarily and haphazardly. I continued on, seeing numbers closer and closer to my goal... and then they leapt 100 digits higher. What? Maybe if I kept driving, things would return to normal.

But for me, normal always means much worse. Now I drove into some filthy (literally filthy, dirt and debris everywhere) slum area, with groups of men huddled around cars leering as I drove past. I fondly remembered my last house in college town, with the set group of men that slunk around their cars on my walk to the duplex. The fond memory was tarnished with the other memory of no pizza or sub shop delivering in our area because they'd been mugged too many times. I drove on.

Realizing I must have missed it, I turned around in a church parking lot (Jesus take the wheeeeel) managing to keep all four wheels on the ground. Finally, I pulled into the parking lot of a set of refurbished brick factory-type buildings, the correct address glittering in faux-gold plating on a sign.

Exactly thirty minutes late.

An hour after sign in started, and an hour and twenty minutes after I left College Town.

I sat in my car. Looked around at all the numbered buildings in the area. I think I saw people moving around, chatting, laughing through a window. I desperately prayed that the one person I knew might walk outside and find me, but of course I have no such luck. I sat. Bit my lip. And put my car back into drive.

Who was I to flounce into filming thirty minutes late, with no call or contact? I was a puny little extra; they may not notice I wasn't there but they would certain notice me stomping in half an hour late, frazzled an disheveled and near tears. A terrible impression to fifty-some people. A terrible first experience in the film world to walk in, only to get turned away. No. I had suffered enough today.

But of course, I hadn't suffered enough. The only thing worse than navigating in Durham was getting OUT of that ninth circle of hell. I drove downtown (uptown) found a college campus, an figured I was close to a highway. Any highway. Please? As I circled the stone wall of this campus-of-evil, I looked down to discover... my gas needle dangerously hovered at the red "E."

So now I began my search for a gas station in a strange and convoluted city, while still trying to get the hell out of it. I pulled up at the nearest ghetto-mart and got out to pump gas... still in my fancy party outfit. But you know, whatever, I once pumped gas at 4am in a wedding dress (true story. long story.) so I can handle this.

A movement in my peripheral vision made me turn. A homeless man began to approach me.

And who wouldn't approach the girl in a party dress (Thank God I opted out of heels) in the middle of a sketchy gas station as the sun began to set? I was either a wealthy society lady who was clueless or... a hooker. "Completely lost extra for a movie" doesn't make the top 5 list if one was to hazard a guess. At least I was a classy hooker.

I fixed him with an evil eye and he shrank away. Thou shalt not give me shit on top of everything else going on. He shrank away. The pump sucked away a quarter of my paycheck and then my car was ready to go. Back onto the winding road and confusion. I deliberately started speeding, hoping that a police officer would pull me and then I could beg for directions. Or a police escort. But these were the gritty streets of Durham, and no law enforcement was to be found.

I finally found the Durham Freeway, which lead to all the other highways. I made the only lucky guess of the night and took the Freeway south. And kept going. And going.

I had now wasted almost two hours, more gasoline than my hippy heart can bear, and absolutely all my patience. Just as I was about to pull over on the median and cry, a glorious sign shone above my head - the route to College Town.

I took the exit and thought maybe I would treat myself to a little retail therapy. I've gotten some of my best clothing while fuming with rage. I headed to Giant Mega Mall, but I forgot one thing - it was the last day of tax-free weekend.

I tried to navigate Hipster Outfitters to no avail, and then drifted along, following the teeming hordes in and out of various stores. Nothing caught my fancy. Everything had been picked through; people were bumping into each other and chattering and SCREAMING BABIES EVERYWHERE.

I admitted defeat and waited in super-crowded favorite restaurant to get Spinach-and-Artichoke Cheese Dip to go. I still have no microwave in the Purple Cottage, but at least I could have a good meal. I returned home to eat in the dark (no overhead light) closet in my roommate's empty room, as it was the only place I could pick up a few flickers of wi-fi. So maybe the evening was horrible, I thought, but at least I was able to end it with a good, delicious meal.

Fifteen minutes later, I was violently sick. 


Anonymous said...

ha, great story!

oh and definitely carry on with school, you may never know!!

thanks for the comment on my blog
Julia @ Retro Jules

miamanson said...

hahaha nice post ;) first i think that you're a journalist :p
thanks for the comment dear! :)

Anonymous said...

The account of this episode is (am I evil to think this?) truly entertaining to read. I'm just hoping this was not a certain film shoot I might know about . . . .

Sarah said...

Oh now, how scary! :-( what an absolute nightmare of a journey, and then you think it's a bit better because you had a nice meal at the end, but then to top it off you were sick!