At this particular time of year, there are some things that I miss about our old neighborhood.
I miss scampering through the local corn maze with my sister, cackling loudly as we race through the crisp fall air and trick small, rosy-faced children into marching down dead ends. I yearn for my kitchen, with its sharp knives, miraculous dishwasher and double sink. Here, when I load the sink with dirty dishes and greasy pans, I don’t have a second bowl to fill my coffeepot in, and rearranging the mountains of glass and knives is like a kitchen version of running the gauntlet – one of these days, I am going to reach in, flail about, and emerge not with ten fingers, but with two fists of what appears to be ground meat. I long for the vegetable stand a mile up the road, with its locally-made ginger and eggnog ice creams and perfectly inspired cherry tomatoes that almost never lasted the 3-minute drive home. I crave a yoga class, a match with my volleyball team, my washer and dryer, and the company of my parents. I even sort of miss the way the local McDonald’s employees recognized my face as I drove through for yet another vanilla ice cream cone. I’d try not to frequent the same franchise more than once per day, but there were times when I cared less about my reputation and more for my craving. They probably had a nickname for me, and rightfully so.
But despite the wonder of NPR, wireless internet, and comprehensive fitness centers, there are also a few things that I don’t miss. For example, I don’t miss traffic. For you friends who doubt the existence of traffic in the neighborhood, boy do I have news for you. I can identify between 40 and 50% of the vehicles driven in our current town. The other half is made up of either Canadians or logging trucks. The last time I had to stop behind a car was about a week ago. It was on the 3-mile dirt road to camp, and was because we all knew each other and were stopping to have a chat.
I also don’t miss shopping. C and I have developed a very brief retail half-life, which seems ironic since before the move, I worked in that industry. Perhaps it was always this way, but I suspect that making our direct purchases almost exclusively at convenience and grocery stores for the last nine months has exacerbated our impatience. The only exception I make to the above statement is that I have retained an insatiable love for shopping with my sister, which categorically falls somewhere between Halloween-costume hunting and raiding a candy store, and is perhaps better known as the eternal quest for the most revolting frock.
Lastly, among the things that I have gladly left behind me are traffic circles. If you believe in such a place, I am convinced that these, friends, are what Limbo is made of: circle after badly engineered circle of misery and anguish and panic. I dread them. There is a special, particularly abysmal roundabout near our old house that was recently re-designed, which means that they decided after a dozen years or more to abruptly change the traffic pattern. I completely agree with the decision, because the vehicle interactions were backwards and inside out for years (inside out, I tell you!), but this is exactly the problem with traffic circles: there seems to be no universal way of constructing them. Another loop I know of has two lanes – two lanes – something that simply cannot produce a safe or predictable traffic pattern. I am certain that a preschooler somewhere took red crayon and drew a set of fiery concentric circles, then crammed the paper into her city planner/mommy’s briefcase, only for it to slide out onto the office floor and get pushed through approval and funding by some recently-promoted department intern. It's particularly infuriating considering that the circles were probably drawn to be a giant apple, or maybe Buzz Lightyear. Bottom line: a two-lane roundabout is ridiculous.
Just try to get out of this inside circle without reaching for your Paxil. Kiss your sanity goodbye.
Mercifully, I haven’t driven in a circle in months, hardly ever see a stoplight, and buy my gifts online. This softens the blow of not being able to watch my sister kill a bag of 75%-off Halloween candy or nosh on my mom’s salsa while listening to Simon & Garfunkel with Dad at the dining room table. It’s is a good thing, because life without the joy of those two events has the potential to really bring me down.
But no traffic circle Limbo? This just might be worth it.