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Driving in Dallas

I needed to find a doctor here in Texas. I thought it would be easy; there are doctors here that specialize in everything from nosebleeds to warts. Not that finding a doctor was a bad thing, but I knew in order to get to a doctor,  I actually had to drive to a destination that I had to “google” online to even find. For those of you who are even more computer-impaired than I am, googling is a search on the computer that gives you a map to your desired place in terms found only in “driving in big towns for dummies.”

I had my son print the map out for me and to my surprise the map was three pages long. Not only was there a picture of the map, but the directions were written out in words like, “turn left in 3 miles on Mockingbird Lane and go 1.5 miles and turn right.”

Every road has a number here; if you’re lucky it also has a name. That doesn’t mean that the sign indicating the name of the road is actually going to be where it is supposed to be. Because in Dallas, everything is always under construction. You can begin your career and retire on the same project in Dallas. So Mockingbird Lane isn’t marked anywhere that is should be, you know, like on the street sign. In Dallas, I guess the names of the streets are state secrets.

As my medical insurance is expired, I decided to go to the free clinic for a mammogram. It sounded relatively simple—it was only a 30 mile drive. I left the house at 7 am, hoping to arrive early for the first come-first serve line. Downtown Dallas is not for the weak of heart. Evidently the speed limit of 30 translated into 30 feet every .005 seconds. I could actually hear the wind as the cars and trucks sped past me. At one point I was panicked, a diesel in front of me, a suburban to the left of me, a semi truck to the right and another van behind me. I couldn’t see anything in any direction and that, my friend, is no picnic.

I was looking for the final road to turn on, and after 30 extra miles, I was pretty sure I had passed it. I turned around to go back; unfortunately, I had to do that at least three more times. Finally, I turned on an unmarked road, just hoping it was the correct one. I was looking for a hospital; now why they put the names of the buildings and business on the very top of the building, I have no idea. I was craning my neck out of the window to see if this or that building was the one I needed.

Finally I found a driveway that looked like an emergency room driveway and I turned on it, as by now, it was an emergency. I asked the valet, (yeah, valet parking!!), if this was the walk-in clinic, but he didn’t speak English. I asked the next valet who walked up the same question, but he didn’t speak English either. By now, valets were beginning to surround my van, evidently thinking I was trying to get them to park my van without paying, and all they could tell me for sure is that I had to pay $6 to get in, no matter what.  

I paid it. I had already driven around looking for a parking place for 30 minutes and the closet thing I could find was three blocks east and three more blocks up in one of those high rise parking lots. I was dizzy just driving around downtown.

The valet gave me a ticket and I walked into the hospital hoping they could at least tell me what planet I was on. The information clerk pointed me in the right direction, sort of. Back outside, another block over. All along that block were tents and large cardboard boxes; it was very disconcerting to see entire families sitting in front of this clinic like that. Some people were in lawn chairs bundled up, some were listening to boom boxes rapping with music that I couldn’t understand the words to.

I walked into the Ambulatory Care Clinic and took my place in line. I could not believe how many people were already there. Though I had left early, it had taken me until 9 to find the place and I was pretty sure I was going to have to wait a few minutes. I finally made it up to the window to sign in and the lady behind the window handed me a number. You know, the kind they give you “now serving number…”  I looked at my number and looked back up at her in disbelief. My number was 968. In astonishment I asked her how long the wait would be—she told me approximately 7 or 8 hours. She said it as if it were nothing. As if it was normal. As if waiting 7 hours to get my boob smashed beyond recognition was something I was actually going to do. The first time I ever hear about anyone complain about the wait at Bonner General, they will probably get an ear full.

I took my number and went to the valet to retrieve my car they had parked 10 minutes ago. No refunds. I didn’t even care. I just wanted to go back home even though it meant driving back the way I came and I had no idea which way that was. So I did the easiest thing; I called my son to ask him where I was. After he quit laughing he directed me to a road he was just positive I would recognize. He has a lot more faith in me than I deserve.

I drove the direction he told me to, ignoring all the fists and fingers being waved in the air at me because I wasn’t keeping up. Dustin and I got off the phone when he told me I only had a few more miles to go; besides, I think it might be illegal here to talk on a cell phone and drive at the same time. By then though, I couldn’t take anymore. The traffic was finally thinning, so I decided to pull over and collect my nerves. I sat in the parked car trying to calm myself, doing the whole self talk thing they tell you to do to make your life more positive. I was positive it wasn’t working. Especially when I looked to my right and realized that I had chose to pull over on the road less traveled, next to a cemetery. I thought it was pretty appropriate.

After my experience driving in Dallas traffic, I felt like parking in front of a cemetery might be pushing things a little, so I drove off. Well, at least that’s what I would like to tell you. As most of you know, I am incapable of logic. The little plaque on the cemetery said it began in 1870—how could I just pass up an opportunity to gander at some old headstones like that? I got out of my van and tried to get in the fence, but the gate was locked. That should have been some kind of sign not to continue.

I walked to the side and found an old broken down gate practically falling off its hinges and slid through it. The closest headstones were unreadable, which made them even more eerie for me. I took a picture, yeah, I took my camera in, I admit it. Who knows, I thought I might capture a ghost in one of the pictures taken in broad daylight. I noticed that every time I took a picture, the cars driving by slowed down to watch. Was this “Hungry Ghost Month,” or something? Because I couldn’t remember, I thought I had better leave.

I tried to get out the broken down gate, but it was stuck. How did that happen? Were the demons trying to keep me here? Were the hounds of hell getting ready to nip at my ankles? Was it getting colder? My overactive imagination scared me into nearly breaking the gate off its hinges to get out, but get out I did. I was kinda glad everyone in there was dead, I didn’t need anyone else laughing at my expense.

My day of driving in Dallas was something that I don’t think I will be repeating in the near future. I now know that I am not nearly as a crazy as you have to be to drive in the rat race business. Besides that, this is the big city, I can call a cab!

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Jinx Beshears Jinx Beshears is a southern transplant to North Idaho, and shares her confusion with the Pacific Northwest Lifestyle in her column, Jinxed. When not writing, or living, her outlandish stories, she's generally lost somewhere in the mountains with her dog, Aspen.

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