Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. For 2017 our ultimate destination of choice was the city of Baltimore, Maryland. You might remember it from such TV shows as Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, not exactly the most enticing showcases to lure in prospective tourists. Though folks who know me best know I’m one of those guys who won’t shut up about The Wire, a Baltimore walkabout was Anne’s idea. Setting aside my fandom, as a major history buff she was first to remind skeptics who made worried faces at us for this plan that Maryland was one of the original thirteen American colonies and, urban decay notwithstanding, remains packed with notable history and architecture from ye olde Founding Father times. In the course of our research we were surprised to discover Baltimore also has an entire designated tourist-trap section covered with things to do. And if we just so happened to run across former filming locations without getting shot, happy bonus…
As a confident driver with above-average reflexes, limited patience for needless hesitation, navigational skills honed over a lifetime, and a car that responds well to my every need and impulse, I find it excruciatingly difficult to relinquish control of the steering wheel and let someone else drive. Blame it on my upbringing in a large city with a fierce loyalty to the automotive industry; slow, intermittent buses; costly taxis that aren’t a common enough sight to count on; and no commuter rails whatsoever. Indianapolis loves its cars, its car exhaust, and its gridlock. When officials brag about how we’ve expanded our 21st-century travel options, they’ll mention Uber, Lyft, and the BlueIndy electric cars you can rent for a few hours at a time. In other words, more cars. Way to save the world, Indy.
On our annual road trips, occasionally we’ll think to sample the mas transit where we’re hanging out. On our 2011 and 2016 road trips, I loved letting the ubiquitous MTA subways carry us all around Manhattan and Queens, but their bus line’s haphazard schedule and incomprehensible route signs drove me bananas. On our 2003 foray into Washington DC, the Metro came in handy for a city where we couldn’t afford many of the parking options at the time. I’ve had mixed reactions to my limited use of mass transit in Chicago, Denver, and Philadelphia. Otherwise, in our travels it’s entirely up to me when and how we get where we want to go. We don’t have to wait for other drivers or share space with other passengers. I save us some time and tend to drive faster than any public transportation professionals except for NYC cabbies, whose tolerances for four-wheel zero-G are beyond my comfort threshold and most speed limit signs. Ultimately, if it takes us longer to arrive somewhere than we should, I’d rather blame myself than someone else.
With Baltimore we decided to give their local travel options a shot — partly to save us the hassle of their traffic, and partly to cut back on parking fees in addition to what we were already paying for the garage behind the hotel. If the results wowed us, maybe we could go back home to Indianapolis and tell them what a major city with real mass transit looks like.
We may have picked a bad week to try that.