Wednesday, May 2, 2007

You Can't Get There From Here

When I moved out of Waterloo, I left behind some patio furniture and power tools because I had nowhere to put them in Toronto. My former roommate has finally moved out of the place we lived there so I had to make an emergency trip to rescue my stuff from being left behind. There's nothing more awkward than showing up to a houseful of strangers and opening with, "hi, I used to live here, and by the way, that chair you're sitting on is mine. Can I have it back, please?"

I was reminded of how horrible navigating Waterloo is. I used to call directions to my place Xeno's Directions because you have to take 4 or 5 right turns in a row after getting off the highway to get there. You just sort of spiral in, getting a little closer each pass — but you can never truly reach the house.

For anyone who has never had the joy of living in or having to navigate the streets of Waterloo and Kitchener, I'm fairly certain that the city planner simply took a picture of a plate of spaghetti and started naming the streets. Parallel has no meaning. King St and Weber St, which are two fairly major streets which run "parallel" to each other have 3 intersections and also start off as the same road. "Meet me at King and Weber," is possibly the most confusing instruction you could issue. And, because this is Ontario, saying, "the one with the Tim Hortons," fails to clarify the situation at all.

So Kitchener and Waterloo are adjoining cities. Maybe I'll get into what I think about them at some other time. The important thing for this post is that their grids (what grids there are to speak of) are at a slight angle to one another. On top of that, neither of them runs truly North-South. So you wind up with all the major streets taking a slight jog in the middle and the same street which is considered to run North-South in Waterloo is thought to be an East-West street in Kitchener. For example, you can run from the North end of Waterloo to the South end of Kitchener and be on King St N, then King St S for a short stretch, then a tiny bit of King St W and finally you will end on King St E. Which turns into the highway. Also, Weber St E. Honestly.

The other clever thing is that to get to Waterloo from Mississauga I got on Hwy 403 West, then 407 East and then 401 West, without ever actually backtracking. Look at a map. It's ludicrous.

This reminded me of when I was down in San Jose and we were driving back from SM's house in Berkeley. We were going down the highway, minding our own business, when I realised that the signs read "580 East / 80 West."

"Great," I noted, "we're going East and West at the same time."

I confirmed this on the map we had. "Does this highway do anything else neat?" I asked, putting on my best, serious navigator voice, "Ah, here we go: we can go East and West at the same time and also travel through time. The next exit is for July, 1972."

1 comment:

Rob (a.k.a. Dad) said...

Perhaps the people who laid out the streets in K-W were fans of Doctor Who -- like the TARDIS, it seems impossible that the roads could all fit in the space available.

And since, of course, the early settlers of the area pre-dated TV by many decades, the roads must somehow (like the TARDIS) permit travel in time so that they could have seen The Good Doctor to have laid out the roads in that fashion... er, wait, that constitutes a time-loop, doesn't it?

Although maybe it offers an explanation for some of the locals' resemblance to Daleks...