Friday, April 27, 2007

Peorians, I Love You, But ...

You suck at giving directions.

Everywhere does have its own little quirks. When I lived in Raleigh-Durham, there were people accustomed to referring to the direction you wanted to go on the Beltline as "clockwise" or "counterclockwise," which always required me to get out a map and visualize a watch, because "clockwise" and "counterclockwise," like 8+5=13, is one of those things that just won't stick in myhead.

I've noticed three things about Peorians giving directions. First, you people have no comprehension of what a "corner" is. I frequently get told somewhere is on the "corner" of X and Y when in fact it's halfway down block X driving east from Y. Service people often ask "what corner?" when I tell them my house number and I used to say I lived in the middle of a block, only to be told, as if I were a very slow child, that they were asking what major intersection is nearest to me. Well in that case, ASK FOR THE NEAREST MAJOR INTERSECTION! Sheesh! (There is also absolutely zero agreement in this town on what constitutes a major intersection. Sometimes Sheridan and Forest Hill is "major"; sometimes I have to escalate to University and War Memorial.)

Second, none of your streets have last names, like "Road" or "Street" or "Way." Except for Boulevard Avenue, which I'm sure there must be a story behind, because it's a deeply bizarre name for a street. For the longest time I thought the street was "Wisconsin Boulevard Avenue" which is even weirder, because I only saw it when I passed the sign coming west on 150, and didn't realize the street changed names when it crossed 150. When I'm giving my business address to B2B vendors or whatnot on the phone, I'm frequently stumped. "3445 North University," I say. "University Road? Street?" "Um ... I honestly have no idea. I've never heard anybody say." Virtually no personal mail sent from within Peoria has a street's appellation attached to it. Most of the signs at least SAY road or street or lane on them in very tiny print, even if nobody CALLS them that, but one of the road signs for Frostwood, out towards the new mall, doesn't actually say anything but "Frostwood." "War Memorial" is almost always called "War Memorial," except by men over about 55, who call it "War Drive." I've never heard anybody call it "War Memorial Drive," let alone "EAST War Memorial Drive." I spent ages pouring over a map looking for "War Drive" on it, incidentally, the first time I was given that in directions. (There is also West War Memorial Drive and, for a brief bit where it crosses Glen & Sterling, a NORTH War Memorial Drive.)

Finally, and most difficult, YOU GIVE DIRECTIONS BASED ON PLACES THAT ARE NO LONGER THERE. I was invited to a meeting at Jumer's once. Nobody thought to tell me that JUMER'S HAD BECOME THE RADISSON BEFORE I EVER MOVED TO PEORIA! (No, I never made it to the meeting. It wasn't until about 6 months later that I finally figured out Jumer's was the Radisson, at the Wheels O' Time Museum, of all places, that has the first limousine in Peoria, which belonged to Jumer's, which is now, as the sign noted, the Radisson!) VOP's was something that wasn't VOP's and people were always trying to get me to go to a place that wasn't called VOP's by anyone except THE ENTIRE CITY, but now I guess it's back to VOP's. I frequently get directions like, "It's at the foot of the hill where the Random 50's Drugstore/Diner/Restaurant/Gas Station used to be, you know?" Um, no, I don't, I JUST MOVED HERE. (And by "just" I apparently mean "within the last 50 years" and "I was not granted the Peoria hive-mind that allows me to know the name and location of things that ceased to exist before I was born.")

If you can just try, TRY, to tell me the current names of places you want me to go -- something like "the Radisson that used to be Jumer's" would be fine -- I will forgive you for referring to geographical landmarks that are invisible to the naked eye, likes ridges and bluffs and things that have had houses built on them so long you can't actually SEE them, but since they were blatantly obvious in 1852, have become part of the local hive mind.


C. J. Summers said...

You know, whenever I ask for directions in Chicago, I'm always greeted with a blank stare. If it's not within one or two blocks of the gas station whose attendant I'm asking, he or she has no idea. And these aren't obscure places I'm asking about either -- it's usually things like, "how do I get back on 90 east?" or something like that.

By the way, if anyone ever tells you to go north on route 88, they mean Knoxville (which is Knoxville Avenue), which is now route 40. IDOT changed the route number because apparently some moron upstate kept getting IL-88 and Interstate 88 confused.

Also, here's something funny -- for a while, the city changed the name of Water street to Constitution Avenue. Everyone continued to call it Water Street until finally the city gave up and changed it back.

Oh, and the "Sears Block" is that big empty block downtown bordered by Washington, Adams, Main and Liberty where the Sears department store used to be. They want to put a museum there, but they can't raise enough money for the Taj Mahal they have planned.

If I think of any other tips, I'll let you know. :-)

ErickaJo said...

Raleigh/Durham and it's inner/out beltline can kiss my butt.

That is all.

Anonymous said...

You could always take a cab.

Emtronics said...

Every street sign has a street or an avenue or whatever it is behind it. Yes at Wisconsin Ave, the street changes as it crosses 150 (War Memorial DRIVE) becuase that is Peoria Heights, not Peoria.

Anonymous said...

OK - what about the constant references to "neighborhoods?" Oh, I live in the XY neighborhood, which often has no relationship to any of the street names in the neighborhood. And these are not large neighborhoods - they are often a few streets or blocks. It's not like they are referring to Uptown in Minneapolis or Wrigleyville in Chicago. For example, "High Wine" or "Edgewild" or the "Uplands." Seriously, people.

C. J. Summers said...

Well, I can't speak for all neighborhoods, but I do know the origin of the Uplands:

"In November of 1901, O.L. Woodward and S.L. Briggs of Toledo, Ohio along with others, were in negotiations for the plot of land near Bradley Polytechnic Institute known as the Bradley Farm, which they expected to improve 'by laying asphalt streets and cement sidewalks and otherwise beautifying the district for a fine suburban residence addition to the city....'

"By late May [1902], as the improvements were under way, Briggs announced a contest to name the addition, with the prize to be $50 in gold. Thousands of entries were submitted. The judges reviewed more than 4,000 suggested names before declaring Mrs. William Ker the winner for her submission of 'The Uplands.' An editorial in The Peoria Herald Transcript reported, 'The name is euphonious, and easily remembered. It is elevating to the mind, and the residents of the new section will be glad to tell their friends that they live in "The Uplands"' Mrs. Ker donated her prize money to the Bradley Home for Aged Women."

LyricFox said...

Oh man. Do I EVER sympathize. I've lived in Waco now for three years and I STILL can't figure out why our area of town is continuously referred to as North Waco. It's SOUTHWEST Waco. Look. On. A. Map.

And yeah, I'm with you on the landmark thing. That's done all the time here.

Cory said...

When I moved from South Florida, I had a really tough time getting used to the 3-dimensional directions people give in Peoria, i.e. "turn right at the top of the hill." That, and all the roads that don't run north-south/east-west.

Jennifer said...

Driving in Peoria I still sometimes have to remind myself:

A helpful mnemonic for:
As a teenager, it seemed if you knew War Memorial and those main four, you could get almost anywhere in Peoria. (Coming from Washington, we never went "downtown" or to the "south side")
Now, as an adult, I would add Sterling, Main, and Willow Knolls.
I still get lost downtown and that whole Harmon Highway area confuses the heck out of me.

Ryan Johnson said...

My mom still tells me to meet her at the Holiday Inn in East Peoria when we go out to dinner after her trip to the Par-A-Dice. That doesn't sound all that weird except she's not talking about the Holiday Inn Express....she's talking about Kohl's.

PeoriaIllinoisan said...

And I like to eat dinner at Bennigans. You know, the restaurant attached to the Continental Hotel.

Paul Wilkinson said...

it was the Continental Regency Hotel

Josh said...

Don't go by landmarks, get the address. Peoria is set up on a grid system. A major street every 6 blocks for the most part. By knowing this, you can find things using the address.

Going North
Nebraska 1800/1900
McClure 2400/2500
Forrest Hill 3000/3100
War Memorial DRIVE 3600/3700
Lake 4200/4300
Glen 4800/4900
Austin (although, not a major street) 5400/5500
Pioneer Park 7800/7900

Going South
Lincoln 600/700
Starr 1200/1300
Krause 1800/1900

Going East/West
Knoxville 100E/100W
Wisconsin 700/800 (I know, it's off a block, but still close)
Prospect 1200/1300

Sheridan 600/700
University 1200/1300
Sterling/Allen/Griswald 2400/2500

Anonymous said...

To add to your confusion - I think the Jumer's/Radisson is now called "Peoria Castle Lodge".

But I still call it Jumer's. =)