One Way Streets
My problem is that the Indianapolis roadmap is unusually… efficient. Everything is clear and orderly—a testament to the German organizational influence Indianapolis shares with a large portion of the American midwest.
It’s a nice breather from the usual chaos of my hometown. I know where things are and can explain directions in a sentence or less, even if I end up almost ramming into an SUV because I thought for a split second that Central ran north AND south. It all makes sense in a reasoned kind of way.
I grew up in the foothills of east Tennessee where sweet tea, katydids, and the slow, anarchic sprawl of winding roadways reign king. Time and space are measured by arbitrary standards that vary from person to person with little regard for common dimension or explanation. If you don’t speak the language, you end up lost.
What I mean is this—when you ask for directions in east Tennessee, you don’t tell people to head “this many blocks north, and that many west” as you would in Indianapolis. In east Tennessee, you give people directions by saying, “go up to the second gas station with a missing pump, hang a left and then it’s just a short piece past the fruit stand outside O’dell’s, but be careful because there’s a slick spot by the bridge when it gets to raining.”
My home neighborhood (one of the better organized parts of town) skipped from 47th to 49th street thanks to some planning oversight that probably lost the 48th street sign in a city dumpster. On the other side of town, my friend lived on Northwoods Drive, not to be confused with Northwoods Way which was forty minutes south.
Not exactly the most efficient system, right?
But somehow, I’ve always ended up getting wherever I needed to be. I won’t pretend that a large portion of those trips weren’t due to blind luck, but colloquial navigation can get you pretty far, especially when you have a mountain or two available to help you locate yourself.
And now I’m in Indianapolis. Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga has been replaced by the twin peaks of the Chase tower, and my labyrinthine road system by the numbered grid in its weirdly logical order.
But that’s part of why I’m excited to be here. It’s all a matter of perspective and Indianapolis certainly has a different one than my hometown does. The grid was laid and then the buzzing life of a modern city was crafted on top like a sculpture on its plinth. Rather than restricting the city with order, the layout gives Indianapolis an identity wholly its own.