* yes, there should be FIVE sets of boots but Allen ignored my advice to get adequate rain gear...

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Muscle Memory

I had been prepared for the mechanics of re-entry to be a slog.  I have been pleasantly surprised to find it exactly the opposite.  The trick is to rely on my muscle memory.

You know how you'll re-arrange your bathroom cabinet and reach for your toothbrush in the old spot for ages?  I'm using that to my advantage.  When I've gone to unpack dishes and books and All The Clothing (seriously, how could such small people need so many socks?), if I try to remember which drawer they go in, I'm sunk.  But, if I just let my body move, everything lands right about where it should be.  The "where" being instantly clear once it's actually there but terribly fuzzy until that moment.

It's the same sort of approach I take to standardized tests (and I rock standardized tests).  If I don't think all that much about a vs c, I almost always pick the right one.  My downfall comes in the "check over your work" moment.  I learned through painful experience that I just should be sure I didn't skip a line and otherwise leave well enough alone.  Of course, this is all further evidence that you should never put all that much stock in test results- I got a 700 on the SAT Math section (before re-norming and whatnot).  That alone is reason for indictment of the college board.

Interestingly, my husband, is having a far rockier re-entry process than I but expected it to go far more smoothly.  I tend to be significantly more intuitive than he.

My biggest concern had been driving.  Drivers and their roads have their quirks.  In Ithaca, it was that whoever was going downhill always had the right of way when it came to things like stop sign placement- this was on account of needing to drive in snow and ice.  In Nashville, the drivers could NOT fathom how to merge and fell to pieces when it rained but became bizarrely aggressive on ice.  I learned to drive in Frederick, which was a reasonably sleepy town with the nice trick that if you drove 25 mph (the speed limit) you could catch all the greens on Main Street.  It also had a rather large preponderance of one way streets that were not always clearly marked.  Before too long you had to be able to navigate the beltway and the required agressive driving around DC and Baltimore.

I don't think I've driven anywhere that was quirkier than Blacksburg, though.  The crux of the matter is the number of different driving styles you see come together.  It's sort of the whole rural v city, town v gown, fiscal conservative v social liberal tension that threads through everything around here and is mainly addressed by the town planners via many, many stoplights and one round-a-bout (which really does work quite well despite the misgivings of pretty much everyone).

It took me a long time to figure out exactly what was going on but the crux of the issue is that you have a bunch of basically country/small town drivers running smack into (sometimes literally) rather inexperienced drivers who learned to drive in places like New Jersey and DC.  When I moved to Nashville from Frederick, I was constantly having riders ask me why I was cutting people off until I got the hang to of the very polite to non-functional merge pattern favored there.  Blacksburg traffic is that conflict on steroids.  The ain't-in-no-hurries v the agressive drivers isn't pretty.  Plus you get the added wildcard that at least 20% of the drivers are lost to some degree or another- it heads up to 40% in August and September as the resident population doubles with student move-in.  The wildest of these wildcards is the returning alumni.  They hit the roads with the carefree assurance that they know this town, nay, practically own it, really, ignoring the 15 years of infrastructure tweaks that have occurred, blithely gesticulating to their captive off-spring, recounting their glory days and making a left hand turn from a lane that has been straight only for the last 10 years.  Nothing is perhaps quite so unpredictible as the lost driver who doesn't know he is lost.  I am the rare inverse of the unwittingly lost driver, a driver who thinks she's probably lost until she suddenly realizes that she apparently knew just where she was going all along, just as long as she doesn't actually try to think about how to get to where she's going.

The mind is rather odd thing.

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