I found out last night about a free clinic for H1N1 shots that I actually qualify for (they usually only take preschoolers or other groups I can't pass for) but it happened to be in Portland. My grandmother has been trying to convince me that that's JUST TOO HARD for me - I don't know the magic number of trips to the post office I have to take before I'm good enough to drive to Portland. I also go back and forth about if I really need this vaccine. It's not like I even leave the house enough to get exposed to it in the first place. I wrote down the directions last night and decided to play it by ear today, rather than plan to get up at 7 am and wait outside for hours in 20-30 degree weather. To hell with that.
I decided to see what things were like at the health center when I got up today, so at 10 I called and asked if there was still vaccine and if there was a huge line. They said there was plenty and not much of a wait, so I got ready to go right away. My grandmother tried to give me directions, but I decided to stick with google maps. Her directions turned out to be wrong. Score one for me. I had no problem getting on 295. I even got stuck behind someone that kept putting on their brakes for no apparent reason and I didn't feel safe behind them, so I PASSED THEM. Then I got stuck behind a slow moving truck (not a tractor trailer, but not a pickup - like a delivery truck) so I PASSED THAT. How empowering.
I followed my directions and used what I remembered from zooming in on the map and I got to the place with no problem. I wasn't able to park there so I went around the corner. I ended parallel parking going downhill in Portland. SUCCESSFULLY. Apparently you do use that skill again. I got in, filled out my paperwork, and only had to wait in line for a couple minutes. An old man talked to me. I got my shot and was out of the room in a matter of seconds. At first they wanted to give me the nasal spray, but my cold got me out of that. Yes, I prefer a needle to nasal spray. I had to sit and wait 15 minutes to make sure I didn't develop Guillame-Barre syndrome (nice) - I think I lasted 10 minutes before I claimed I'd been there long enough and left. I'm impressed I lasted that long before I needed fresh air. The old man was talking to me again, though, and that was distracting.
I found my car, and just as I was getting in, the person I had parallel parked behind left, so all I had to do was pull forward. Doesn't get luckier than that. I decided to meet my mom at the hotel, and then I had to figure out how to get there. I have no idea how I got there, honestly. I just followed Forest Ave for a really long time, then saw a sign for Westbrook, so I took that left, thinking it sounded familiar. Then I saw Joker's and knew I was in the right area. Sadly, what confirmed I was in the right spot was seeing the strip club. I met my mom there and I had a big lunch, courtesy of her - a fried haddock sandwich with a pickle and french fries, soda, hot chocolate, and a super-heavy peanut butter pie. It was awesome. I had a lot of fun - it was kind of cool eating by myself in the restaurant, too. I just read my book (Upton Sinclair's The Jungle - a real uplifting one) and enjoyed myself. We were able to sit and talk when she had free time after the lunch rush.
I was there for two hours and decided since I was out of the house anyways, I might as well go Christmas shopping. I was going to take the turnpike, but I ended up going North instead of South and ended up in Falmouth. I was concerned when I saw signs for Topsham. And then it was snowing, to just make this even better. But at least it was just light and brief. And at least I knew enough to get off in Falmouth. So I ended up in the center of Falmouth. I could have just gone home, but I'd already sold myself on going to the mall. So I kept going through Falmouth, got on 295 once I got into Portland, and went to the mall. It was an easy ride out there. I did some lane-changing when I figured out which lane was better and I did a great job. I realize none of this makes any sense to you if you're not from Maine, but trust me, I took the extremely roundabout way of getting there. I went to Michael's first because I've promised my friend Jeremy a hat and I remembered I had a gift card there. I got the yarn. I forgot to use the card. Also, wow, it sucks parking out there. But not as much as it sucks driving that strip from the mall to the store. I could have walked faster. Much faster. At least I had a lot of CDs.
I decided to go to the mall, if only to say I've gone to the mall by myself, and got back on the road. Getting back to the mall is much faster than getting away from it. I parked between Longhorn Steakhouse and Macy's. When I walked into Macy's, I felt like a new woman. I had gone to the mall alone. It's such an amazing feeling, knowing what I just did all by myself, and that I can take my time and go wherever I want and no one cares. I hung around the mall for a while and got some presents, then decided to go check out the new Wal-Mart to get a gift card for my grandmother. Sure, I could have done this in Falmouth (near where I live). But this one is big and new. And I could have gone there the first time I went down that way. But I hadn't thought of it yet.
This took FOREVER. The traffic was much worse by that point and I was stuck there so long. But I had my mix CDs and the radio to keep me occupied and I was enjoying myself. The new Wal-Mart, incidentally, is not worth this trouble. It's a large Wal-Mart. Where Tide is almost $14. To hell with that. But I did get the gift card.
I opted to go home after that, since, you know, I was out of places to go. So yes, I left the mall at 4:30. That's fun. And I had to get on 295 on this new loop that looks absolutely terrifying. I've never ever done that before. Since it looks terrifying. But it's not like I had a choice - just take a deep breath and do it. And I did. And it was fine. I got home about 5:00, rushed my presents up into my bedroom closet, and now I can just hang out and work on a scarf I'm making for a gift, knowing all my other shopping is done. I had an AWESOME day. I feel like such a grown up. And I feel like I know a hell of a lot more about driving than I had let myself realize. I navigated Portland, compensated for not being able to park somewhere, PARALLEL PARKED, merged, passed, and drove fast. It was fantastic.