Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Landing in America

We landed in Minneapolis after a long and rocky 12 hours of flying and layovers, and the Girl and I were anxious to get to our friends’ house in Minneapolis and rest. So, as planned, I called them to tell them our plane had landed.

Plan A: Call them on my mobile phone. Unfortunately, it was not working with US networks as it was supposed to.

Plan B: Use a pay phone. Unfortunately, it needed US quarters, and I hadn’t had a chance to exchange the currency.

Plan C: Use a credit card to call. No, the operator asked for a zip code, and I don’t have one, nor does Ireland have any postal codes.

Plan D: Take the light rail – Minneapolis has a great rail line, which goes straight from the airport to within a few blocks of my friends’ house. No, this was the weekend it was closed for repairs after an accident.

Plan E: Take the bus -- but the bus lines were working around the light rail repair, and the route would have been rather complicated.

Plan F: Oh forget it, I’ll take a taxi.

Take me to 115th Avenue and 135th Street, I said as I loaded the suitcase and A Very Patient Girl into the taxi. (Address made up for purposes of publication.)

“Can I have an address?” said the driver, whose command of English was not the best.

One Hundred and Fifteenth Avenue and One Hundred and Thirty-Fifth Street, I said. That corner.

“I need an address,” he said, and I realized he had to punch the numbers into a central computer and get directions dictated to him. I made up something that would get us close.

After a few minutes of driving, I realized that he was not only new to Minneapolis and America, but apparently driving, and would pause hesitantly, panicked, at stop signs, going over a mental checklist of what to do. He began wandering around the suburban roads, lost.

Knowing he was a recent immigrant and that it could not be easy for him -- and that his English was much better than my Somali -- I tried to stay patient and diplomatic, and not shout:

IT'S. A. GRID. The streets are straight and follow compass directions. They are numbered in sequential order. It can’t get easier.

It was left to the five-year-old from a different continent to shout from the back,

“Papa, we’ve passed that house before.”

“Are we going in circles?”

“We should have been there by now!”

Eventually, we got there. I paid him what it should have cost us.

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