:: in which we learn about The Jessica Way ::
You’ve heard of taking the easy way. You’ve heard of learning something the hard way. Today I’ll introduce you to The Jessica Way. When I was learning to drive, my Grandpa Bob would sometimes ride with me. He was a serious, intelligent person and I think I made him crazy with my silliness. He was an educator. One time he was showing me a learning tool he had made, a box with holes in the lid that you would probe with a stick to guess what was inside. He said you can put anything in there, like a rock, a pencil, or a piece of fruit. I added cheerfully, “Or a dead goat?” If we were in the classroom, I probably would have gotten my name on the board. With a check mark.
So when he would drive with me, I’m sure it was exasperating for him. Rather than take the direct route from Point A to Point B, I navigated my way around by taking an elaborate, circuitous path that hit on various landmarks and points of interest from my childhood along the way.
To get from my house to his house, a normal person would go straight down Piedmont Road all the way to Penitencia Creek, turn left and be done with it. Not I. First we would circle the block around my house, to see if there were any horses out in the field on Calaveras. Then we would start down Piedmont Road, but abruptly turn off at a small cul-de-sac to see the house my mom and step-dad used to live in. I always liked that house. Then back on the main road, until we got to my friend Jennifer’s house. She came to this country in a boat, and I liked to drive by her house and remember that story. Here I would turn in, and go the back way out so I could skirt the perimeter of my school. Next a little zigzag to get us back to the main road, until we hit Whitman Way. This is the street I grew up on and I never, ever passed it without driving by my old house. At the end of the street, you could turn right and head straight out to my grandpa’s house. But then you would miss going up the big hill and seeing if your fifth-grade crush Yuji was at home, which by this stage in my life was ancient history, but for some reason I felt compelled to do it anyway. Then back down the hill, and over to my elementary school. A detour at the big tree to drive past the library and playground where my grandparents used to take me when I was little, up to the 7-11 where I used to buy Jolly Ranchers for a penny each, and then to the karate studio where I attempted to learn Tae Kwon Do (another humiliating post for another time).
A quick stop at the grassy area near the pond where I found a bullfrog that time, and another pause at the pine trees where a crow flew down and pecked me on the head when I was 10. I think it wanted some of my wiry hair for its nest. Finally, I would round the bend onto the far end of Penitencia Creek, and drive all the way down to its dead end at the back entrance to Alum Rock Park. I would sometimes pretend I missed my grandpa’s house so I could take a peek into the park entrance before turning around and parking at the house. “Well,” Grandpa Bob would say. “We certainly took the Jessica way that time.”
My grandpa used to say there are no wrong answers, just different ways of getting there. I think I’ve built a lifestyle on that adage. There’s no wrong way, but The Jessica Way is usually more fun. And yes, I still drive this way. So if I’m late arriving at your house, it’s because I had to see some really cool stuff on the way.