Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Garmin and Our Little South Side Mis-Adventure

I'd been driving for around thirteen hours, stopping at two gas stations and a rest stop along the way, with a two year old and a four year old, when it happened.  I already had one day of driving under my belt, which had involved driving from 8:30 am to 11:30 pm, with a fun night of Mae Bae partying in the motel room until around 4 am (she apparently needed to get her wiggles out).

Despite the four hours of sleep and thirty hours of driving, I was feeling pretty upbeat when the Garmin told me to "stay right on 94 towards Indiana..."  The girls and I had been in traffic for over an hour, crawling along, listening to music while they squealed and giggled in the back, enjoying the oatmeal raisin cookies that we'd picked up at a gas station in Wisconsin.  They'd both been dancing in their car seats while I sang, off key, in the front.  It had been a remarkably fun hour given the circumstances.

When the Garmin told me to go right I had a moment of doubt.  I thought we were supposed to be on the Skyway.  Wasn't that how we'd come in to Chicago?  Yet another part of my mind wondered if this were a quicker way out of Chicago and so I moved over to the right... and immediately the Garmin told me that it was "recalculating" and then "Exit 60c and turn left."

Exit 60c put us on the South Side of Chicago on 79th Street.  When you google 79th street you come up with articles like this:  Police Search for Gunman who Shot Eight on South Side, which happened to be published less than a month ago.

If you'd asked me before I was dropped off the freeway at this particular location, with instructions to drive four miles to get back on the freeway, I would have thought that it wouldn't be a particularly scary fifteen minute period of time. I might have said that bad parts of cities tend to be over-hyped.  I would have had some sort of false confidence from past experience and would have reminded myself of the time a friend and I made reservations at a motel while we were going to see a rugby game, only to discover that we were staying right next to Compton... and that that experience hadn't been particularly frightening.  I would have thought of the time I spent in South Africa, and how, our first week, my street had four muggings and a murder and friends had been afraid to stop by to visit, but I'd managed to safely walk to school every day for months.  And I would have thought about "scary" parts of San Francisco where my friends and I had occasionally gone out and how we'd never had any trouble.

And I would have been terribly, terribly wrong.

As we turned left and began the journey towards "Anthony Street" the streets became crowded.  A man walked down the center of my lane, not moving for cars.  A group of twenty teenage girls sprinted by, dodging between vehicles, and then I saw the reason for their panicked flight, as a man holding a giant paving stone over his head followed after them, running right past our window.  Nearly every man I saw was wearing red.  After the paving stone incident, my adrenalin began to pump, along with the ever ready to start contractions (do those two things go hand in hand?).  I thought I was going to be sick.

At the same time, as I was stuck at stop lights and stop signs, I was thankful for Cabrini, our old beat up van, who no one seemed to glance twice at.  Maybe it was the layer of grime and bugs that had accumulated over the previous days and two trips across Montana and North Dakota (not to mention all the other states, which were somewhat less dusty).

A few moments later a cop car sped by, hopefully on their way to investigate paving stone guy.  We were halfway down the first street...

From the back seat Sadie, who'd already said two decades of the rosary earlier in the day, started to say another in a clear little voice.  She led for the most part while I followed along, dodging people who stepped in front of the car as we made it the long two miles to our turn and then another two miles to the freeway on ramp.

When we made it onto the freeway I burst into tears as I attempted to feed a wrinkled dollar into the toll machine through blurry eyes.  The contractions eased up, the way they usually do if I'm not panicking (or walking around for extended periods of time... or lifting heavy things, like toddlers...).  Then I took a deep breath and we drove for another two hundred miles, which were filled with prayers of thanksgiving for our safe passage in a place that had felt pretty dangerous.

I don't think I'll be trusting the Garmin again after this one.  It was a little bit much for me.  Maybe my tolerance level for potentially dangerous situations has changed now that I have two little ones in the backseat and a baby bump, but last night was definitely outside the range of anything I'd ever want to experience again.

I am so very thankful to be home.  And I'm not planning on going anywhere for a while.


  1. Your van was sure appropriately named for driving through Chicago! Mother Cabrini's shrine is about to open there. She's well known and loved in Chicago, I have no doubt she was keeping you safe!

  2. So glad you're home safely. I can absolutely identify with that scary situation, as I took many 1500 mile trips with two little girls, and occasionally ended up in the "bad part of town" after taking a wrong turn (very much pre-GPS!)

    I absolutely agree with Shannon; Mother Cabrini was riding along with you!! Whew!

    Now, we want to hear about the wedding. ;)


  3. SO glad you got out of there, and home, safely.
    I live in VERY northern IL, just over the WI/IL border - about 7 mins from the last WI exit/1st IL exit on I-90. I had thought of cyber-asking if you'd like to meet at the McDs at either exit, if the girls would be ready for a carseat break. But, I decided you'd think it weird.
    Wedding details?? (My 26yo daughter became engaged 2 wks ago -so I have a newfound BIG interest in "all things wedding". I can't figure out how to post as anything other than "Anon" now. . .Mary Ann

  4. I understand you plight, Cam. I went to the Illinois Institute of Technology on 35th and State on Chicago's South side. Early on I noticed that no students went to the McDonald's right across 35th street, and so I asked a security guard why. He told me the last student who ventured there came back in his shorts, "but at least they left him that."

    I never ventured off campus after that.

  5. Wow, I am so glad you are ok! It makes me so sad that kids actually grow up (or don't make it to adulthood) in those places.
    I don't understand GPS's sometimes. Why can't it get it right the first time? Sometimes intuition is better.

  6. I am so glad I am anal about directions, maps and atlases rather than trust electronics. That is just me though, after all, I was the kid in algebra the first year we were told to buy calculators who did not trust the calculator and spent a lot of time checking the machine on paper just in case I had typed the numbers wrong. :P

  7. The bad part was that I did that on the way out (I checked everything with paper directions) and then assumed that it would be right on the way back! I was ready to kick myself. Apparently the directions for getting out to Montana were easier for the GPS than the ones returning!


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