January 03, 2002

I was asked for directions three times on my walk home from work tonight. It's odd that I can go a year without anyone asking me for directions in this city then be asked three times in the course of an hour. And it's not even tourist season. I was wearing braids today, too, so it wasn't that I looked particularly reliable.

Once when walking down Market Street in early summer I was approached every few blocks by people with various levels of english spoken in a variety of accents asking for directions. It still seems odd to me that I must look like a native, or at least someone who belongs in San Francisco.

People are always surprised to find out I'm from Iowa. I'm always pleased when they're surprised.

It took me many years to learn my way around San Francisco. I have a terrible sense of direction, or at least I always thought I did. When I used to visit SF when I lived in Sacramento I'd always eventually find myself driving around lost, usually in Chinatown. Maps are little help, I find, in San Francisco, unless you take time to really study them. The streets are confusing.

For instance, 9th Street turns into Larkin when it crosses Market and though it's one way most of the way it turns two ways when it crosses California. Or how Potrero turns into 10th Street (sort of)--at an intersection of two other streets where I myself have been in several near accidents--which started out up north as Polk Street, which was two way when it was in Russian Hill and Polk Gulch but became one way when it crossed McAllister. Then there's Market Street which doesn't make much sense at all as it winds East/West through the middle of the city, and Fell Street which does this weird thing around Franklin and sort of turns into Lincoln at a strange intersection where you have to get in the right lane to make a left turn on Stanyan.

Bear in mind that I was living in Sacramento which is basically a tic-tac-toe of alphabetical and numbered streets. I never got lost in Sacto.

Now I know where I'm going in SF. I never get lost. I can get anywhere in the city by at least 3 different routes and I can get there on public transportation.

Ironically, I'm still not the best person at giving directions. My dad complains that I usually pick the interesting streets, the streets with lots of stores or interesting houses as opposed to the fastest way. I don't necessarily give the quickest way, the way without stop signs or the way with the widest laned streets. But I'll get you there.

I grew up in the country in Iowa. The fact that I don't think twice about driving around this city, walking around this city, or busing around this city makes me feel like I'm Mary Richards. I'm gonna make it after all.

Posted by Alyssa at January 03, 2002 08:38 PM
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