Following Directions: A Metaphor For Something
I have a torn meniscus tendon in my knee and while I work on strengthening things in physical therapy each week, I'm still not able to reliably climb stairs, especially down stairs. The CTA stop near my house has escalators coming out, but only stairs going down. So I take a lot of Lyfts. A lot. Of Lyfts.

To get downtown on the expressway from my house you go up to Belmont Avenue and turn right on Belmont. Then you can either turn left onto Kimball and grab an on-ramp there or you can go straight for 2 blocks flow right at Avondale/Kedzie and get an on-ramp there. The GPS wants the drivers to always take the left onto Kimball. Maybe it's technically closer? Maybe it's because in the mornings (but at no other time of day) you can hop in an express lane? Whatever it's thinking, it always indicates the left turn. Which often means sitting through a red light twice behind a long line of cars also trying to make a left turn and then sitting through another light once you turn. 

This means that about once a day, I tell a Lyft driver some version of "The app is going to tell you to take a left here to get on the highway, but if you go straight there's another ramp in two blocks."  

The responses I get to this are so strange. 

Most often the driver ignores what I said and gets in the left turn lane anyway, blinker on, like I never spoke.

Sometimes the driver snaps "I already know that." In these cases, there is at least a 50% chance that the driver will spend the next 10 minutes explaining why The Other Way Is Actually Better. 

Sometimes they neither snap at me or ignore me. Instead, what I've said totally confuses the driver, like, they heard me but they cannot process going a different way at first, so they get in the left lane to go left but then jump into the right lane at the last second and it stresses them (and other drivers)(and me) out so much, making me wish I hadn't spoken at all. Then there is this vibe like, my directions screwed everything up and they were just trying to follow them. If I sense the driver is really nervous or really into looking at the app when I get in the car, I've stopped saying at all anything at all because I want to avoid this.

Probably one time in ten the driver says "Great, thanks for telling me!" and goes straight, at which point we merge seamlessly onto the expressway and all is well. VERY GOOD, FIVE STARS FOR YOU. 

You may wonder, could my directions be clearer? I've experimented with altering them to be more direct, like "Go straight here please, there's a better ramp on the right in a few blocks."  I've experimented with when I tell them - as we're still heading up my street, long before the problem comes up, or closer to when the app says to go left. I've made sure to give myself plenty of extra time so I won't be stressed out about running late if we end up sitting through the lights. Could I speak up better? Sooner? Later? Differently? Is there some combination of magic words I could say and when where the person will get it and listen to me and not get mad at me for speaking up? I've said stuff like "We can follow the GPS, of course, but if I have a better route do you want to hear about it?

No one will die, probably, if I just stay quiet and let the person follow the GPS's directions. I'll still get where I'm going, just, after a long interval of sitting through lights...and being annoyed...and not being listened to when I say "Here's a quick easy thing that will make this better for both of us." And second-guessing whether I could have asked better or should have asked at all, will the act of asking make me less safe than if I had just stayed quiet and gone with the flow.

As I read news report after news report and thinkpiece after thinkpiece this week, this sure feels like a metaphor for something. 





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