I waited until dark and then I drove into the village of Skokie, IL. I had a package to pick up at a FedEx shipping warehouse.
I figured while I was out there, I ought to pick up something I needed from Babies-R-Us, which is also out in the burbs.
So I hopped in my car with the box of wine I picked up from FedEx and drove further north and further west.
Once I realized I had taken the wrong route, I also realized I was in a place I’d never gone before, in a strange part of a town I rarely travel through.
Luckily, the street I was driving on is straight east-west, so it was just a matter of traveling back south and east. I turned around in the parking lot of some suburban box store, and made a right at the next major-looking streetlight.
That’s when things turned weird. As I headed south, the road forked and I took the eastern-pointing direction. I wound up on a dark and winding residential track.
As I traveled through this no-man’s-land of driveways, lawns, and slight curves in the road, I lost my sense of direction. The true-blue Chicago grid was both behind me and in front of me, and I wasn’t sure anymore if I was even going in the right direction, let alone on the correct path.
The streetlights grew further apart, and still the road twisted and turned. I may as well have been in the middle of a forest on a cloudy, moonless night. Trees obscured my vision, wind howled, and small animals ran amok in front of me.
I suddenly became aware of a pair of headlights that had been a safe distance behind me the whole time. My blood ran cold. My scalp started to tingle with fear and paranoia. I wasn’t sure if it was just my mind playing tricks on me, but I could swear I saw a hitchhiker on the side of the road. I zoomed past him without a second thought.
I leaned on the gas pedal. I figured if I can’t outrun the murderous driver behind me, and if I’m just heading deeper into a jungle of my own despair, I may as well get it over with. Or, similarly, if I was going the right direction, I’d get to Babies-R-Us faster. In either case, it was better to speed.
Just then, in typical anti-climactic reality fashion, I found the street I was looking for. I made a left and half a mile later I was in the right parking lot.
And since that night I’ve been thinking about the wild-turning road with no streetlights. Who travels such a road but locals and Google Streetview trucks? Certainly not passers-by such as myself. At least not often.
But Devon and I are hoping to move to California someday soon, and when we do we will most likely wind up in a small town with twisty roads.
That’s a glimpse of the future, I keep thinking. Only it will be warmer and less creepy.
Locals know the local roads. Just like I know the potholes that make you turn your wheel to and fro in a city laid out in a straight grid.
They say home is where the heart is. I say home is where you know the roads.
These guys know a thing or two about roads.