the ‘sha

When I first started managing my current Qdoba store on the outskirts of Waukesha, I quickly had to become acclimated to the downtown in order to deliver catering and accomplish other business. I’m not sure how old Waukesha is as its own city, but it’s safe to say that at one time it was very separate from the city of Milwaukee, about 20 miles away, downtown to downtown. In 2006, Waukesha is one suburb at the western side of a line of development that runs about 30 miles along I-94, from Lake Michigan to Delafield, and heading farther west every day. Milwaukeeans have few reasons to head to Waukesha, and my experience with people at my job tells me that many people from Waukesha only go to Milwaukee for special events.

I, however, drive the 18 miles from my house on the Western edge of the city of Milwaukee to Waukesha five or six days a week. The occasional conversation with a customer sometimes evokes surprise when I reveal I am from (surprise) Milwaukee, like it’s a distant land of urban hipsters and skyscrapers.

Today I landed on young Milwaukee blogger Mandy Jenkin’s site. It’s not the deepest or most thoughtful writing, but it’s pretty amusing. I was scrolling through her observations of life downtown, people watching, bar-hopping, and restaurant visiting, when I came across a funny description of what it’s like to be a Milwaukeean driving around Waukesha. It very aptly described the frustration I experienced when I first toured around Waukesha. Read on and laugh:

If you’ve never really explored Waukesha – make sure you have a detailed map and a long fuse when you go (you’ll need it).

Before yesterday, I was convinced nobody actually lived in Waukesha – unless they happened to live inside superstores and chain restaurants. But while making a trip to our Waukesha bureau, I found that not only are there homes out there, but they are located on streets with no apparent directional course.

When traveling on West Broadway, for instance, one moment you’re actually going west… and the next thing you know you’re suddenly headed south. Turn left or right and expect to find another road running parallel? No dice. Honestly, it’s as if a drunken monkey laid out the city’s grid. (It’s actually very reminiscent of the country roads where I grew up – only with a lot more traffic)

Not to mention that so many streets don’t seem to have identifying signage. I suppose the residents know where they are going and we out-of-towners are supposed to identify streets by their shopping centers (when you pass your third Taco Bell – take a right at Talbot’s…).

What’s worse, when I stopped to ask a guy at a gas station on Bluemound for directions, he seemed just a little too amused at my plight.

“Yeah, you Milwaukee drivers always seem to get turned around out here,” he remarked. “This isn’t downtown, sweetheart.”

Yeah, yeah. Next time I’ll be ready

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