Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Navigationally Impaired

Field Museum fun.
Despite having lived in downtown Philadelphia for two years, I'm not a city girl.  I love all the great museums and restaurants in a big city, it's the transportation I don't like. Standing on a crowded bus doesn't bother me.  Hurtling through an underground tunnel at high speeds doesn't bother me, but reading a map with metro lines and bus routes is like telling me I have 10 seconds to read Egyptian hieroglyphs before my head falls off.  So when I realized I would have to navigate Chicago in order to take the kids to the museums, I was a little anxious.  I was naively hoping our hotel near the Magnificent Mile would have a shuttle to ferry clueless tourists around and keep them out of the way of busy residents.  This was not the case.   My husband gave me the helpful advice of "Just walk a couple of blocks then hop on the blue line, get off at the red line and then take bus 192 the rest of the way."  Well maybe he didn't say it quite like that but that's how it sounded to me.  Since he was going to be in meetings all day, it was up to me to figure it out.

In the morning I went to the concierge and asked what the easiest way to the Shedd Aquarium was.  He handed me a little slip of paper and told me the bus stop is 3 blocks away, it goes directly to the museum campus.  I am notorious for saying "thank you" quickly and not getting all the information, but this time I asked him every question I could think of as if he was a wise Confucian master holding all the answers to life.  Ok, I felt ready to embark on this journey now.  We walked out of the hotel and headed for the bus.  My kids, not confident of my abilities, asked if I was sure I knew where I was going.  I lied.  But I trusted the fortune like slip of paper the concierge had handed me.  It told me everything I needed to know, which is good because I couldn't remember whether the guy had said turn left or right.  But in no time we were at the bus stop.  The kids saw our bus coming and we prepared to enter.  I paid with exact change (I had asked the concierge about fares in advance), and we took our seats.  Ryan actually stood up because he wanted to have his feet in one half of the bus and hold the pole in the other half.  Every time we turned a corner, his body swiveled with the back half.  He thought that was really funny.

It took about 25 minutes to get to our stop.  We spent the whole day enjoying the aquarium and Field Museum. Ryan loved seeing the penguins, Alyssa loved the Beluga whales, Jessica loved the Egyptian tour and I loved watching the kids' excitement to learn.  They took tons of pictures, (they each have a camera to document the trip through their eyes).  We had a great time!

We exited the museum from a different spot and I asked the guard which way to go. She asked if we came in the East or North entrance.  I think my mouth hung open....."uh the one by the bus stop", I answered.  She looked confused like maybe there was more than one bus stop.  Then she asked if we came in on "such and such" a street.  I guess I didn't look as clueless as I felt if she thought I knew what street we were on.  I finally remembered another land mark I had seen as we came in.  "Ahhhh you came in from that way, ok go outside and turn left", she said.

We got back on the bus and headed home happy but exhausted.  I was proud I hadn't gotten us lost and I relaxed into the seat.  Then a man in his fifties wearing green and pink plaid shorts entered the bus with his family of 4 kids.  He got out his credit card and tried to put it in the coin slot.  The driver said, "Hey man whatya doin'?  Is that a credit card?  This ain't 2050 it's only 2011, we take cash only, and it don't give change."  The man looked perplexed. He told the bus driver to wait while he asked his wife for cash.  The kids and I watched this scene and all I could think was "UGHH ....tourists."