Wife’s Life: The Fat Tuesday Blues, Or How to Survive Traffic Nightmares in Your City

hby Elizabeth Beller

My daughter was hysterical.

“Why can’t we go to Ella’s??? You said we could go!!!”

“We can’t get there,” I said.

“We did last week!! Why can’t we??”

“Because Ella lives on Peniston, and Spartacus runs up Napoleon, over St Charles all the way to the Quarter!”

No, I hadn’t invented some Harry Potter-ish fantasy fiction to dissuade my daughter from a play date. On the contrary, we were desperate to get to our lovely friend’s home and bask in the glow of their raucously warm hospitality, but there was a problem. How to explain that we were corralled like a vilified member of the press into a sidelined box in the complex, labrynthine mayhem that is Mardi Gras?

New Orleans is alone among American cities in it’s willingness to allow municipal functionality to come to a grinding halt for several long, boozy, parade filled weeks. But in another sense Mardi Gras makes the city join ranks in that most American pastime—obsessing over traffic. Mardi Gras turns attempts at retaining the daily schedule into a relentless and particularly haphazard episode of Mr. Magoo: New York City has the Marathon (unless it’s postponed by another devastating hurricane), Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, UN sessions, Presidential visits, etc. Miami has Art Basel, the Boat Show, the Food and Wine Festival. Charleston has Spoleto. Punxsutawney has Groundhog Day. Toronto, Aspen and Cannes have film festivals. Munich, Octoberfest. Spanish cities seem to celebrate a saint every day.

Every major city vies to host the Olympics, a great boon to the economy, in theory. Sure to make traffic a nightmare, a certainty. What all these events have in common for the locals, whether it’s a large city event of small town parade, is the special hell of not being able to get around.

Add kids to the mix and the mayhem increases exponentially. They have school, extracurricular activities. And you have to get them there. They are also highly likely to be aware of the event and want to attend. If you have a new baby who isn’t aware of the event, you are still hormonally dazed enough to think it would be cute to take them anyway and post the pics on Instagram.

Spring is coming. People start partying. Below, eleven twelve (Beyonce blew a fuse) tips on getting through your city’s celebration relatively unscathed:

 

 

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  • PATHFINDERS 1 of 12
    PATHFINDERS
    Don't get caught corralled to the sidelines like we did. Know your escape or entrance routes ahead of time. Call the local precinct to get an map of closed streets, and ask them as well as seasoned locals about the best way to navigate the crowds. Tell your kids you're playing treasure hunt, and the treasure is avoiding death by stampede. **Photo Credit of Dreamstime**
  • BE READY TO WALK LONG DISTANCES 2 of 12
    BE READY TO WALK LONG DISTANCES
    Not the time to try out those winged stiletto boots. Keep it comfortable. Not Ugg comfortable, because that's not fair to the other revelers, but comfortable. We actually made it to our friend's house by parking as close to the parades as we could, walking to and then through them (narrowly avoid death by Elvis Impersonators stampede) and then another 7 blocks to safe haven. **Photo Credit of Dreamstime**
  • SAFETY IN NUMBERS 3 of 12
    SAFETY IN NUMBERS
    Get to your friend's house who lives nearest the celebration. Go in the wee hours of the morning to beat the barricades. Enjoy the day with them. Attend the event together, and like a well-oiled swat team stake out easy reconvening stations. Preferably back at their house. Stay at their house as long as you can before getting the "We asked you for the day, not as a prelude to change-of-address forms" hairy eyeball. **Photo Credit of Dreamstime**
  • BRING SUPPLIES- 4 of 12
    BRING SUPPLIES-
    It's no coincidence that the portable Potette Plus, which folds out into a sturdy travel potty for bottoms up to 50 lbs is a New Orleanean product, but it's handy for bringing the kids into any crowd. Bring the usual snacks, water, even a book for lulls in the action, and stroller even if your kids are getting past stroller age. Can't tell you how many Jazzfests it was me who ended up sitting in it with the shade down. And most importantly, an empty bag to bring home bounty from the party! Which logically leads to: **Photo Credit of Kalen.com**
  • LIMIT MEMORIBILIA- 5 of 12
    LIMIT MEMORIBILIA-
    Pick your empty bag, whether it's from the grocery, a large kitchen trash bag, a small suitcase or a small ziplock, and tell the kids ahead of time you're not buying more than can fit inside. Stick to it. Or you will regret the legions of cheap plastic beads, already ripped at the seams mini-plush toys, flags, beer steins, balloons, posters, cups, t-shirts, coins, etc., etc., that you will want to toss out before you get in your front door. **Photo Credit of Dreamstime**
  • WRITE YOUR CELL PHONE NUMBER ON THEIR HANDS 6 of 12
    WRITE YOUR CELL PHONE NUMBER ON THEIR HANDS
    In permanent marker. And maybe even write your name and address on a paper and slip it in a pocket. I've seen leashes. Personally I'm for it all. As soon as it's legal to install a GPS chip in their upper arm like a house pet, we'll be the first in line at the vets. **Photo Credit of Dreamstime**
  • DONT BE A LEMMING 7 of 12
    DONT BE A LEMMING
    Find a less crowded spot from which you can be far from the madding crowd, but still get a glimpse of the festivities. Maybe just do a drive by. WARNING: This will automatically cause your usually timid child to scream with fury about their desire to try to do a mosh pit. **Photos credit by Dreamstime**
  • THROW YOUR SCHEDULE OUT THE WINDOW 8 of 12
    THROW YOUR SCHEDULE OUT THE WINDOW
    Jump in full force. Screw school, ballet and soccer. Rent a place even closer to the action with friends to use as a restaurant/bathroom/rest stop. WARNING: This will cause your usually outgoing child to scream with fury about their desire to just go home. **Photos credit by Dreamstime**
  • GET OUT OF TOWN FRIENDS TO VISIT 9 of 12
    GET OUT OF TOWN FRIENDS TO VISIT
    Miss some friends? Nothing like enticing them with "You have got to come for insert name of event !!!!! Even if you hate said event, chances are they will enjoy the novelty. If your feelings toward the event remain unchanged after seen through their rose colored glasses, their pleasure and company makes the day. **Photos credit by Dreamstime**
  • USE DRUNKEN TOURISTS AS EXAMPLES OF HOW NOT TO BEHAVE 10 of 12
    USE DRUNKEN TOURISTS AS EXAMPLES OF HOW NOT TO BEHAVE
    A crash course in public shaming courtesy of travel induced loss of inhibition. You can point out the German on the beach and say "Bad! They should have brought their Potette!" **Photos credit by Dreamstime**
  • GO OUT OF TOWN 11 of 12
    GO OUT OF TOWN
    Skip the headache. Go go go. Rent out your place for an exorbitant rate, and go on a dreamed of vacation. Or pocket the money and go to an inexpensive hotel in the next town. Or go see your friends who have the good sense to skip the mayhem as well. Just go. **Photos credit by Dreamstime**
  • IF BEYONCE IS PERFORMING IN YOUR TOWN< STOCK UP ON BATTERIES, FLASHLIGHTS, CANNED FOOD AND A GENERATOR 12 of 12
    IF BEYONCE IS PERFORMING IN YOUR TOWN< STOCK UP ON BATTERIES, FLASHLIGHTS, CANNED FOOD AND A GENERATOR
    How many wind machines, fireworks, shooting flames and catapaults does a diva need? Apparently a lot. Enough to black out the Superbowl. Any questions? **Photos credit by Dreamstime**

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