After our first day in Tijuana, I was pretty sure my biggest struggle would be finding my way driving places. Google Maps is iffy here, and many streets aren’t well-marked, nor are they on a predictable grid. And slow-moving drivers, being an exception, are a safety hazard.
So I figured I needed to memorize routes and practice. For instance, I knew I would have to drive to Jack’s school in San Diego County on Monday to make sure he got the classes he needed, so I dragged Mark and Jack along to drive across the border twice over the weekend to figure out how to get to the border crossing and show the right documents to the Border Patrol (the first time, our guide Stephanie and her family went with us). I figured that that would have to do until Mark could teach me how to drive to my next likely destination, his office at the American Consulate.
So this morning, Jack and I waited for the consulate armored vehicle that would drive him to school (for security reasons); I planned to go on my own shortly thereafter. A few minutes past the pickup time, the driver of the shuttle walked to our house and explained that, trying to drive into our gated community, he had blown his front two tires on the security spikes. Could I drive Jack and two other children to school?
Why, yes I could! I’d even practiced! It worked out well with help from the other kids, who were able to guide me through the car lanes of their respective schools on the US side.
In the meantime, I got a text from Mark, who had ridden to work with our neighbor. In all the morning hubbub, he had forgotten the documents he was supposed to take with him to the consulate today. Would I be willing to drive them to him when I got home? No biggie if I was too scared!
High on my early success I responded yes I would — if he would send me directions. But he didn’t get my return text. So after I got home I worked with Google Maps on the laptop, wrote down the approximate turns, and headed out. Without the documents. Turned around early on, retrieved the documents, and left again. Took a wrong turn somewhere along the way and was guided by Google Maps into a dead-end construction site. Backed out. Figured this was reason I should have practiced first.
But then Google Maps miraculously got me back on track and, in about 5 minutes, to the consulate. Where Mark was shocked, shocked!, given how often I had assured him there was no way I could drive anywhere without practicing first.
While at the consulate, I got to meet two of his bosses, a friend from Mark’s training in DC who gave me driving tips, and a new colleague who made us laugh uproariously about the home alarm systems that are mandatory and make one’s eyes cross. I got to practice my infinitesimal Spanish when trying to explain to the guard why I showed up there (mi esposo was helpful). Mark and I got to have lunch together. And I was able to cobble together directions home that worked, with an assist for Google Maps.
My takeaway — sometimes the best laid plans (practice, practice first!) work out for the best. And yet, if you just have to just use your wits and screw up along the way, you might do even better.
Which is not to say I’ll be winging it very often, given my cautious personality. Just a relief to know that I can.