I really have a good sense of orientation. I can drive into Budapest and find Keleti station without a map, having been to the city only once before. Give me a map and a street name and I will find just about any place in Bucharest. I do that regularly and I rarely get lost. Unless... unless I'm somewhere close to Calea Plevnei. Calea Plevnei is one of those strange places like Stonehenge or Salisbury Hill. It has it's own magnetic distortion field and no sense of orientation will help you. Even messenger pigeons get lost when they come close to Calea Plevnei. I swear that's true.
Yesterday evening around 6:30 the boys and I were on our way back from a play date. Going up Magheru Boulevard, Alan spotted one of those giant posters with a hamburger and the familiar "M" on it and cried out: "Mommy, I want French Fries!" Now, I am not wont to give in to these demands when we are at home. We eat horrible food enough when we're traveling but at home, we eat sensibly. I mean, sensibly enough. [Cough.] It had been a tough day for Alan, though. He'd had a bad accident at school and looked like the loosing party in a major boxing event. His right eye black and blue and swollen almost shut, he elicited cries of woe and sympathy wherever he went. And both boys had been very good this afternoon, I had no idea what we could possibly have for dinner, Doug wasn't coming home until late... oh, what the hey. Now, there is only one McDonald's I know of in the relative vicinity of where we were that had parking. The one on Calea Buzeşti. There are a couple ways of getting from here to there and I could have avoided Calea Plevnei easily enough. I don't know why I didn't. It was a nice evening after a nice day, I felt at peace with myself and the world, I had a map... come on, I can do that! I didn't even want to go on Calea Plevnei itself, just in the vicinity - up Berzei and then Buzeşti, easy-peasy. Hah. It was easy getting close to the neighborhood itself. Zip, zip, and we were there. And then it happened. All of a sudden, I lost my orientation and couldn't tell east from west or north or south. Hadn't I just come from this direction? Didn't I need to go in a 90 degree angle now? But this street was tilting backwards, or wasn't it? And before I knew what happened, I found myself - on Calea Plevnei. I pulled over, with flashing lights, and pulled out the map. Alan said, "Oh-oh. We are lost." Calea Plevnei makes an odd turn in the middle, and it... oh, it's just a mess. We were far from where we wanted to go. And since I was in the center of magnetic distortion, I had no hopes for escape. Calea Plevnei is the Bermuda Triangle of Bucharest. Guess what. A young man knocked on the window. Asked me where I wanted to go. Well, Calea Berzei. No, Buzeşti, really. Actually, the McDonald's on Buzeşti. Oh, he said. Come on, just follow me. I don't usually do that. Who knows who this guy is, what he really wants. And my perception was distorted enough that I couldn't fathom which route we were taking. Past the Gara de Nord? But... And then right, and left? But wasn't that taking us away? But all of a sudden, there it was, the big golden M right in front of us, the kids shrieked in delight (and what does that say about my cooking, I wonder?), the nice young man declined any money I offered him and disappeared with a nod and a smile into the night. Mulţumim, stranger. This is why I love Bucharest.