I help my husband’s company by doing the bookkeeping for him. He’s a small subcontractor, so maintaining cash flow is important. Sometimes this means being tough on contractors who are slow to pay and going to pick up checks when your instincts tell you that “the check is in the mail” won’t materialize unless you show up in person.
Last week, I had a contractor who would only give the check to me if I went to their office and signed a lien waiver in person. I looked up the address and groaned. Downtown Minneapolis.
Folks, I’m going to be completely transparent here. I’m a shitty driver. I always have been, but it’s getting worse the older I get. I plod along at the speed limit or below. I hug the right side of the road, convinced that every car behind and beside me is a missile of mayhem. I overreact to every move made by cars ahead of me and adrenaline courses through me when I have to switch lanes suddenly to make an exit. Worse still? I’m an absolute nightmare as a passenger. I gasp, flinch, brace myself for impacts that never come, cover my eyes and occasionally scream. Closing my eyes makes the anxiety worse because I become consumed by vertigo and images of the fiery crash I’m sure awaits me.
So I’m an all around joy in the car.
As if that isn’t bad enough, I also have no sense of direction. Wherever I’m facing? My brain thinks that’s north. On the rare occasions that I’ve stopped and asked for help, I’m dejected to hear someone tell me to “head south at 7th street.” Give me the directions to Neptune, that will be just as useful. The miracle of turn-by-turn GPS has provided much relief, but once I’m downtown, I still have to find a parking garage near the destination, and frequently the exit isn’t on the same side of the street as the auto entrance, so I become even more confused. Google Maps in walking mode is occasionally helpful, but not fail proof.
When I saw the check had to be picked up downtown, I began pleading with my husband to get it. And by pleading? I mean whining. I begged him. He reminded me that his one-ton pickup rarely fits into the parking decks, and offered a compromise. He would drive me downtown in my car, and I could run in and get the check. Fine. Anything but downtown on a weekday.
During the drive to Minneapolis, Steve decided he would park the car while I retrieved the check and we could have lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. I felt pretty smug that my whining had paid off so well.
As soon as I entered the building, I was greeted by a scaffolding and caution tape. The lobby was under construction. Instant confusion. A security guard recognized my panic and pointed me to the elevators. Crisis averted. I got the check from the contractor and called Steve to tell him mission accomplished. He told me to take the Skyway over to the IDS Tower and meet him at People’s Organic.
As you can imagine in the Twin Cities, the weather can get pretty cold. The Skyway system was created to enable foot traffic between buildings year round, in climate controlled comfort. It’s like 11 miles of a giant labyrinth. And for the directionally challenged pedestrian like me? It’s a nightmare.
Steve knows I can barely find my way out of our cul de sac, but I pulled up my big girl pants and decided to attempt the journey on my own. The IDS Tower is the tallest building downtown. Surely that was useful as a navigational tool. Wrong. My view of the skyline was restricted by the buildings immediately surrounding me, and I’m not familiar with the downtown area since my visits are usually limited to the theater district and surrounding restaurants. I wandered between buildings for ten minutes looking for directional signs or maps to help me.
Next, I looked in the App Store to see if some genius had used technology to help other hopeless souls navigate the skyway. Success! I found an app that promised to guide me to the IDS Tower. I downloaded it and followed a quivering arrow that said it would direct me to my destination. I envied the hundreds of earbud wearing workers around me who were clearly comfortable with this quagmire.
I followed in the general direction of the arrow on my iPhone, still looking around to see if any signage existed that could confirm or contradict my path. I went through two buildings, and fifteen minutes later the app declared that I had arrived at the IDS Tower! I called Steve and told him I was at the Skyway level. He said he was on street level. I peered over a balcony and saw a group of dancers in the middle of an interpretive performance, but I didn’t see People’s Organic. I called Steve again and asked if he was near the dancers. “What dancers? Where are you?”
I looked around and determined that I wasn’t in the IDS Tower. “Well…I guess I’m not in the IDS; I’m at the Capella Towers. Beautiful building, though.”
In spite of my nonchalance, my anxiety was mounting. Steve told me I was only four minutes away and to ask someone for directions. “Unless that ‘someone’ is willing to take me by the hand and personally escort me there, that isn’t going to work!” I snapped.
Exasperated, he ordered, “Just stay where you are, and I’ll come get you.”
Four minutes later, (and a half hour after he initially told me where to go) he appeared and pulled me over to a concierge that I hadn’t previously noticed. He gave me the “watch how this is done” look and asked, “Which way to the IDS Tower?”
The concierge responded, “Do you play chess?”
I threw my hands in the air and looked at Steve with disbelief. “What kind of place IS this?”
The concierge continued, “It’s a knight’s move.”
“In layman’s terms!” I pleaded.
“It’s an ‘L.’ Go down here and make a left and you’ll be there.” He also handed us a map and drew a line indicating the path we should take. I followed behind Steve, holding the map and trying to make sense of where he led me.
Even with the map, I’m still not convinced I could have made it there on my own. Steve has done work in the skyway for over 30 years, so he navigates it like his backyard.
If I ever needed proof positive of my husband’s love of me, it’s that Steve finds my directional befuddlement endearing and even a little adorable. (At least that’s what he tells me…) He accepts it as a trade-off. Excellent cook but horrible with directions…that’s fair. Although he does consider it his personal mission to improve my driving skills in the interest of me, my passengers and every other driver on the road. So if you see us together, chances are I’m the one behind the wheel, Steve coaching me from the shotgun position.