I have the world’s worst sense of direction. I mean this literally. On this entire spinning planet, no one has a pisser-poorer sense of direction than I do. You know that old biddy in the ‘93 Chevy Lumina you got stuck behind on the drive to the supermarket the other day? The one who blinked left for a block and a half and then, you know, TURNED FREAKING RIGHT, forcing you to swerve left to avoid smashing into the Lumina, causing thousands in property damage, ramping up your insurance payments and possibly injuring the poor fragile dear in the process, thereby plunging you into years of guilt and expensive coping mechanisms?
Her. I’m her. I am a somewhat younger, though no less grayer, version of the old blinking-tail-light biddy that every driver hates. Only I’m worse.
Last summer, while walking back from the ladies room at an Italian restaurant in Vermont that featured exactly two dining areas, I got lost. I wandered around both of these rooms until my family spotted me and called me over, laughing uproariously.
I’ve had kids at Albany High going on eight years now. For almost eight years, I’ve gotten lost on parent-teacher-conference day. For almost eight years, I’ve had to stop and ask directions to Mr. Whoozat’s Room and Ms. Wherebody’s Office, and whenever someone has responded with, “Oh, that’s on the North side,” or “Gosh, that’s on the South side,” I’ve thought: WHAT’S THIS YOU SAY? North? South? What are these curious words of which you speak? Forsooth, I know not of North and South! And then I proceed to walk in whatever “direction” they’re pointing in an attempt to “find” the correct room. This goes on until the teacher, standing in the corridor outside his or her room, sees me, blinking like an injured baby squirrel in the sunlight, and shepherds me gently inside. And no, I have never actually seen an injured baby squirrel.
I’ve lived in this region for 22 years now. For 22 years I’ve driven to, through and around Troy. For 22 years, I’ve gotten lost driving to, through and around Troy. When that happens, I do not stop for directions. I do not expose myself to people speaking the cryptic tongue of Compass-Words. Instead, I just scream SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT as loudly as possible while taking left turns and blinking right until I see the river, at which point I yell THANK GOD THANK GOD THANK GOD and drive toward that, until I somehow lose sight of it and get lost again and again yell SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT for another several blocks of turning and contradictory light-blinking. In this manner I make my way to the Green Island Bridge, which, THANK GOD THANK GOD THANK GOD, I recognize, and which I dutifully and relievedly cross, until, on the other side, I am forced to take a whole new combination of turns. Blink. Blink. Blink.
GPS. My friends Tamar and Louis gave me one in October of 2011; before that, I didn’t need one, because my husband was a GPS years and years before GPS became GPS and started barking orders at confused people in robotic lady voices. I love GPS, especially when the robotic lady pronounces “Cross Bronx Expy” “Cross Bronx Expweeee.”
I should take inspiration from my mother, who, like me, often got lost. But she never yelled SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT, at least not in my hearing. Instead, a wicked grin on her face, she yelled WE’RE HAVING AN ADVENTURE, KIDS, and my sister and I were credulous enough, and young enough, and enough in awe of her ability to wend through life without crashing, to believe her. She never cared when she lost her way, because she always had faith she’d find another one.