Guest Columnist - John Ropa
Situated on 50 yards of disconnected Clinton Street in Galena, our house is hard to find. Our address is not included in anyone's GPS system. Even though the city has been kind enough to install street signs, we remain hidden. Consequently, flowers do not arrive on time; friends and relatives do not visit; and the delivered pizza is nearly always cold. Most of these problems are insignificant, though, I don't care much for cold pizza. The issue is that my house is not close to any landmarks.
My first experience with landmark directions occurred several years ago, when I was trying to find land to purchase in Elizabeth,IL. I stopped at a local establishment to ask directions. A helpful bartender introduced me to Marvin and Marian, who, he said, would know exactly how to get there. I described the property and Marvin was quick to respond. "That's on South Derinda Road, a couple of miles past the corner where the old schoolhouse used to be." Marian added, "There used to be a grocery store there, too."
Seeing that I did not understand those directions, Marvin paused, trying unsuccessfully to think of another landmark. "You'll just have to turn right on Derinda, go south, and look for the hidden driveway. If you get to Savanna, you've gone too far," he said. So, I turned south on Derinda Road and looked for a hidden driveway. When I got to Savanna, I was fortunate to run into my real estate agent. She agreed to lead me to the property in Elizabeth. Miles later, when she turned right, into a hidden driveway, I turned as well. "How did you know when to turn?" I asked. "The driveway is right across the road from where the giant oak tree used to be," she said.
Considering this recently, I decided that my Galena home was simply going to remain lost. I had no landmarks and no one was ever going to find my house on the first try. This made me hungry, so I knew that it was time to order a pizza, even though it would arrive cold. I called and began to give directions. I spoke to an order-taker with whom I had never before spoken. "Oh, I know the place," she said. "It's the white house behind Montgomery's." Now, I don't know Montgomery's, nor do I know where they live. But the lady seemed so positive and forthright, I hadn't the heart to correct her. I tentatively agreed that I lived in the white house behind Montgomery's. As usual, I heated up the oven.
Twenty-eight minutes later, a young man delivered a hot pizza. Later that month, using the phrase, "the white house behind Montgomery's", I had my septic pumped, my well serviced, insulation blown into the attic and delivery of three more hot pizzas. My wife even got flowers on Mother's Day. The problem of how to get to my house had been solved, as least as far as the local businesses were concerned. However, for the benefit of friends and relatives, I needed to find another landmark and the mailman provided it: "I always turn left at the yellow "Slow Children" sign," he said. So now, if my friends and relatives are driving south on Fulton Street, I tell them to turn left at the yellow "Slow Children" sign. If they are driving north, I tell them to go to the stop sign, make a U-turn and turn left at the yellow "Slow Children" sign.
And, if those slow children ever leave the neighborhood, I can tell my friends and relatives to turn left where the yellow sign used to be.