I have the directional sense of a fruit fly in a windstorm. There have been times in my life when finding my way to an unfamiliar place has resulted in tears, though not always mine. This is not at all shocking when you consider the time I placed numerous phone calls for assistance, one of which may have been to 911, stopped at two separate gas stations, and slowly followed a kid on a bike asking if he knew where Shelly lived. I don't think he did though, because he just started yelling "Stranger Danger!" and sped off into a park.
Recently, I got lost at a mall. Not a strip mall obviously, but one of those big crazy labyrinths of endless stores, food courts, and kiosks. I called home and told them I wouldn't be home for dinner; it was 9:30 in the morning. I know when to be pragmatic, and the kids need to eat.
It's not that the mall design folks don't try to be helpful. They do have those 'YOU ARE HERE' signs posted at regular intervals. However, they are about as helpful to me as a bag of cats, because generally I don't know where 'here' is to begin with, so finding my way to 'there' is pretty much a no go.
A while back someone suggested I get a navigational unit that is designed to assist the directionally challenged. I felt I qualified and purchased one immediately. It felt liberating. It was almost the death of me.
Let me explain.
I decided to try a test run and plot a course for my brother’s house five hours away. Off I went feeling that this was the start of a brand new life for me. No longer would I be at the mercy of figuring out which way is left by holding my thumb and forefinger up and trying to make the letter “L”. No more counting lights and trying to find places to make a legal U-turn after miscounting the aforementioned lights. This was going to be my best road trip ever. Sadly I was so wrong about that, I was almost right.
After a while it was night time, and the weather turned to rain and fog. I wasn't too worried as I was pretty close to my final destination. I was driving down a very dark, narrow road with mist as thick as three day old porridge, and my visibility limited to about two car lengths in front of me. But I was okay because I had Charles, my ever helpful, GPS unit guiding me. I named him that because he seemed quite regal and perhaps the tiniest bit bald.
Then, out of the darkness, I found myself a mere three feet away from driving directly into a lake. I was at a ferry crossing that had long since closed. I braked hard and stared out into the black shimmering abyss that had almost become my watery grave. I looked down at Charles the GPS with a sense of shock and betrayal. Then I turned the car around and headed back down the road.
Charles, however, did not like my new course, and he kept telling me he was 'recalculating route,' instructing me to make a U-turn as soon as possible. It became clear to me that Charles was trying to kill me. I ignored him and called my brother. He started to give me directions, but after a while he must have just gave up and come and got me. He said I just kept whispering, “ Shh… Charles is listening and he knows where I live.”
After that happened I made peace with myself, and decided I'll just have to be okay with getting lost from time to time. It's probably not the worst skill to lack. I can make awesome lasagna, and you can't be great at everything; it's obnoxious. As for Charles, he is no longer a part of my life. He has been re-routed back to whence he came. I have seen Transformers and the Terminator movies, and I recognize a bad seed when I see one.