Ah, Welcome to the Real World – Part I

And now the continuation…

Well, was it really not a big deal? These lyrics mirror my mind’s inner workings during the first few days and weeks in my new environment.

“Hey yeah, welcome to the real world
Nobody told you it was gonna be hard
You said hey yeah, I can’t believe it
I barely started now I’m falling apart, and it’s hard”
– Real World ’09 by Rob Thomas –

That brings us back to day two. The destination was a large Scandinavian furniture store in New Haven. Ah, New Haven, that was an easy one. Been there, know my way around, and the bus goes just straight up and down Whitney Avenue. What could possibly go wrong?

But I still needed a map when I embarked on my first mission. Knowing what to do after I had exited the bus was useless as long as I hadn’t found solutions to the obstacles in-between – especially finding the right place to board that darn thing.

In an attempt to combine a few chores, I had picked Whitney Avenue and Skiff Street as ideal location to begin the bus ride. Two stores just around the corner were supposed to make life easier. A department store should solve my Internet dilemma and the supermarket across the street was supposed to sell bus passes.

I approached the first store after a thirty-minute walk. It was an icy day. I kept hat, scarf, and gloves on, although the temperature inside was summery. SIM card, where would I find a SIM card? The electronics department should do the trick, right? I passed dozens of ice cream options to my right and children’s clothes to my left. TV screens were dead ahead. That’s it. Cell phones, tablet computers, DVDs, but where were the cards?

The adverts from a handful of service providers smiled at me – green and black and lots of text on one, magenta dominated another, and a light blue was the favored color on yet another.

I skimmed their messages. But I couldn’t find what I was looking for. I wandered through the aisles, trying to discover the gemstone I was looking for – a purple lettering that had the word ultra in it. Five minutes passed; nothing.

Should I just ask a coworker? The only one in sight was busy. What would I say? I played various conversations through in my mind while I waited for her to finish. But the guy she was with kept asking question after question. It was getting warm in here, and I didn’t really feel like approaching her anyway. Another time.

Crossing Dixwell Avenue was the only task I had to accomplish to reach the second store – the emphasis is on only.

The parking lot alone was big enough to hold a soccer stadium, if not more. Once I had safely crossed the half-emptiness of the lot, I saw the real problem. Dixwell Avenue was a wide and busy street. Shouldn’t have surprised me since I had walked the sidewalks of this very street for a good portion of the hike that brought me here.

I watched the cars passing by. There were no traffic lights – for pedestrians that is – in sight. And what could be a sidewalk was covered under dirty snow remains. I remembered, however, that I saw pedestrian traffic lights at the intersection of Dixwell Avenue and Skiff Street.

They enabled me to cross Dixwell Avenue in relative safety, all right. But I needed to cross Skiff Street, too. The Supermarket was on the other side of the street. There were no lights at the intersection, just a crosswalk.

Be brave, you can do this. I approached the crosswalk carefully, step-by-step. I looked to the left and saw the cars rushing up the hill. They had still a green light. I used the time to observe the intersection. Why was this guy just making a right? He must have had a red light. Two crossing streets couldn’t have had a green light at the same time. The light switched to red. My chance, I thought.

I looked left – safe. I looked right – not so safe because cars were about to intersect the crosswalk I needed to use. I was confused. How am I supposed to reach the other side of the street in one piece? I waited until the last car had disappeared. I couldn’t see any additional vehicles approaching from that direction, and the lights hadn’t changed yet. I took a deep breath and aimed to set my right foot onto the street. My turn, I rejoiced.

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I turned my head to the left to check one more time. That was when I suddenly saw a car just short of three feet away in front of me. I bounced back a step. Phew. What are you doing? You’ve got red, dude! But the car had already completed the right turn onto Dixwell Avenue. Little did I know that it’s legal to do that in this country. But I bet they are supposed to watch out for pedestrians, right?

Well, I gave up. There must be a safer way to cross somewhere closer to the supermarket. So I walked down Skiff Street. The next intersection, which was basically just the entrance to the parking lot, baffled me even more. I wasn’t surprised to find no pedestrian street lights, but why could I see a sign telling me to push for a signal? There were no lights…

Not even thinking about the option to take my chances to cross in-between all the cars leaving the parking lot, I continued. Two minutes later, I could finally see a big yellow sign with a pedestrian on it. Phew, I had found a safe way across the street eventually.

To Be Continued…

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