I just got back from New York, where I attended the wake and funeral for my grandmother who, at age 90, died in her sleep. Not much more you could ask for out of life, I say. It was an opportunity to see my mother's extended family, which is a very rare occurrence for me. I'm one of only two (out of fourteen) cousins who doesn't live on Long Island. In fact, due to my stubborn insistence on living in the state where I grew up* and my disinclination to spend time on the other coast, this weekend marked the first time in twenty years that all fourteen cousins were in the same place.
Most of my mother's extended family, in fact, lives in Massapequa or the surrounding area. According to my brother there are actually five cities (or "villages" or whatever) on Long Island that have the word "Massapequa" in their name, and the people of Nassau County take these divisions very seriously. For example, on Saturday, my brother and I were trying to find the funeral home, which we had been told by our uncle was on a particular street two blocks north of another street, and bore the name "Massapequa Funeral Home." When we got onto the street on which the funeral home was supposedly located, we drove two blocks and saw nothing but drug stores, coffee shops, and other such commercial, non-death-related establishments.
My brother then poked his head out the car window and had the following conversation with a guy on the sidewalk:
My brother: Do you know where Massapequa Funeral Home is?
Guy: [Incredulously.] Massapequa? This is Massapequa Park. What you need to do is make a left here and drive down past the reserve. You're probably looking for the place on Broadway.
My brother: Okay, so there's no funeral home on this street?
Guy: Oh yeah, it's right there. [Points to a funeral home not fifty feet away from us.] But this is Massapequa Park.
My brother: Okay, thanks. [Drives fifty feet to funeral home, which has a large sign out front that says "Massapequa Funeral Home."]
My theory is that people on the East Coast like to give directions because they like the feeling that they know more than the person they're talking to, and it's an added bonus when they can actually point out a mistake that the person seeking directions has made. This guy just reached a little too far.
* The New York-centricism of my mother's family is so strong that one of my relatives actually asked me whether I considered myself more of a Californian than a New Yorker, whereupon I explained to him that I have never, in fact, lived in New York. I believe I had to make this clarification at least twice, possibly three times over the course of the trip.