Recently, I had the need to drive from my home in suburban Atlanta to Houston, TX with my son. This is no small task. It involved two tanks of gas and crossing the Mississippi River. We listened to an entire audiobook and still had time to talk.
It’s hard to get a feel for the scale of the United States from an airplane seat. In order to know how big it is and how much of nothing there is in vast swaths of it, you have to drive it. We only drove halfway across the country. It felt like forever, but it wasn’t. We didn’t even get that far into Texas. Texas is just big. Big like your brain can’t conceive of the bigness of it big. For example, even though we drove from Atlanta, from the South East to the South West of the Country, 730 miles and across four state lines into Houston, we were still closer to Atlanta than we were to El Paso. Think about that for a minute. We were 800 some odd miles from El Paso and 730 miles from Atlanta.
Of course, once we got to Houston, there was still a whole lot of driving to do. I don’t know if you’ve ever had the chance to drive in Houston, but if you ever get the chance, just, don’t. Not unless you’re an adrenaline junkie with 270 degree peripheral vision.
Imagine, if you will, some supernatural creator being. Not a kind and loving god, perhaps a trickster one, or an indifferent one, one with a sense of curiosity and humor. He is the god of chaos theory. He takes in his infinitely large hands a collection of roads, interstates, traffic cones, potholes, exit and entrance ramps, speed limit signs, and road closure notices. He shakes them up to shuffle them thoroughly then spills them out to see what form they will take. They connect at odd angles, line up sometimes in sevens, sometimes randomly and abruptly shift to twos, branch off in all directions, and head off into the shimmering swampy sunset heat.
We tried to drive on these roads to Ikea. We asked Siri to help us, since she is generally good at saying things like, “get in the right two lanes” and “in two miles, turn left” and that sort of thing. She knows you don’t care what the name of the road is. She knows you want to know that you go through the next traffic light and then turn right at the next one.
Driving in Houston, however, the directions are something like, “Get in one of the left four lanes to exit left, then immediately cross six lanes of traffic to exit right in 200 yards on exit 283-b-12(i). Turn left, but don’t get in the left lane, because that will end in a concrete barrier (or oncoming traffic) thirty feet before you want to turn. The speed limit might be 30 or it might be 60, but it won’t matter, because everyone will be going 90. Then make a hairpin turn, slaloming the traffic cones, take the 7th exit on the traffic circle, bearing left at the fork, and your destination may or may not be on the right.” After a while, even Siri was like, “I give up, fam, you’re on your own. Just stop and get a taco.”
Not to stereotype, but the tacos were amazing.
We didn’t die, though it was close, and I churned up enough stomach acid to dissolve the concrete barriers that sprung up like mushrooms in front of us. That’s okay, though. It makes me appreciate the 20 lane highways that are Atlanta. At least they stay 20 lane highways, the road signs give you plenty of warning, and the merge lanes are long.
For what it is worth, we did make it to Ikea. In the toy section we found a ‘build a city’
kit which, being from Ikea, came in 8,301 pieces. We bought it and tried to put the roads
together but were unable to figure it out.
In retrospect, maybe nothing supernatural had anything to do with
Houston’s roads and highways. Maybe the
city planning kit was just bought at Ikea – the Hῦstὁn.
 It has to be a he. I have trouble believing that any goddess would inflict this on a planet. She would torture it in other ways.
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Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side. Her latest book, “If You Did What I Asked in the First Place” was awarded the Gold Medal for humor in the Foreword INDIES awards in 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here. If you want Lori to help you market your book, click here.