I have survived thus far in large part thanks to my dad’s uncanny ability to memorize the map of Memphis, Tenn. Anytime I am anywhere, he knows how to get me to where I need to go. I feel very safe driving around my hometown, not because I know exactly where everything is but because Dad does.
When I received the good news that I would be in Washington D.C. for the spring semester of 2010, I rejoiced and then panicked. Panic may be an overstatement, but I will admit to being nervous about several things, getting lost being one and public transportation being another. Although my dad actually has lived in D.C. once before, he was two years old so unfortunately that life experience was not going to help me much. I realized I would be on my own when faced with the decision of going left or right on D Street.
Some of you may be thinking, “Was she not on her own while away at college?” Why yes, yes I was. However, I lived in Jackson, Tenn. where everything I needed was five or at the most 10 minutes away from campus. In Washington, however, a trip to Target entails about a 20-minute walk and careful metro-navigating skills in order to make it back to my apartment in under two hours. Many people, upon discovering I was spending a semester in this city, began raving about the public transportation in D.C. and how much I would enjoy it. I was intimidated at the prospect of relying solely on the transit system because I come from a place where public transportation does not exist. Well, it does to a limited extent but we avoid it at all costs. Additionally, I like my car and leaving it at home did not thrill me. However, alumni of the program promised that I would be using the metro frequently and that it would become my best friend.
In two short weeks I am already learning why there is such a hype about public transportation here. Even someone as directionally challenged and prone to getting lost as me can figure it out quite easily. The maps posted on all walls of the concourse and inside the metros provide a fool-proof way to plan your route. Of course, I have gotten on a metro going the wrong direction and had to get off at the next station only to retrace my steps. I have wandered around Georgetown for an hour no closer to finding Georgetown University than when I first started. I have "mapquested" and researched all possible routes to my internship sight even though work has not even started. I have gotten off a metro and walked in the opposite direction of my apartment. But guess what? I have survived and I am learning quickly. I have jogged down D Street all the way to the National Mall by myself and I have meandered up and down 8th Street in search of a used book store, Capitol Hill Books, without getting lost. When my family comes to visit during Easter, who will be the one giving directions and leading the way? That’s right, Dad. Me!