Thursday, April 15, 2010

LOST! (And, no, this has nothing to do with the television series)

I am unequivocally one of the most directionally challenged people I know. And I’m not afraid to admit it.

I can get lost driving around Columbus, and I’ve been living here more than half my life. (And, yes, that's a long time. Ha.) I used to move to different sides of the city just so I could learn to navigate around that particular part of town, but it was a not the best idea I’ve ever had as some sides of town can be a little dicey.

The area where I currently reside has been home for over 8 years and I’m pretty comfortable there. I finally figured out how the suburb is situated in relation to the city and can (most of the time) tell you which way is north, south, east and west without a cheat sheet. And if I get turned around on occasion, I simply look up at the handy-dandy compass permanently on display on my rearview mirror. It doesn’t mean that I can get myself from Point A to Point B without getting lost, but at least I can tell you which wrong way I’m headed.

My father and sister are excellent navigators, but I was evidently absent when they handed out that particular skill set. Instead, the level of expertise I inherited was the Can’t-Find-Way-Out-Of-A-Paper-Bag Level. This is, as you might guess, a rather low level, ranking only slightly higher than the Hopeless-Don’t-Even-Bother Level.

I used to envy friends who were adept at giving directions. They could, without hesitation, tell you precisely which way to go to reach a particular destination. They’d say, in what I thought was sort of a smug tone of voice (but that might’ve just been me), “Jane, it’s simple – all you need to do is take 71South and exit at East North Broadway and the building will be on the southwest corner.” Those kinds of directions made me want to slap them. Just tell me Left or Right – and make sure you put a landmark in there, i.e., “If you reach the Dairy Mart, you’ve gone too far, so just stop and call me back.”

Very quickly my friends learned to give Regular Directions (as in the above example, for normal people) and Jane Directions, which basically meant that they drove me there.

I also had to build in extra time for backtracking. Otherwise, I’d always be late. As it is, my record is about 50/50. I’d say that I was leaving at such-and-such a time and people would look at me like I’m nuts. They’d say, “Why would you leave so early?” I’d just pointedly look at them and they’d say, “Oh, yeahhh…never mind!”

I think it’s really cute when my husband hands me directions from Mapquest and tells me I’m the navigator. He knows perfectly well my limitations in this area. “But all you have to do is read them to me,” he says. “How hard can that be?!”

Is he kidding??

Take the other night, for example. We got turned around no less than three times trying to reach an area precisely 13.27 miles from our home. There were 13 Mapquest steps altogether, and really only 6 if you consider that most people know how to get out of their own neighborhood. And, okay, I will concede that, for me, there were 13 steps.

What’s worse is that we were headed to an area of town where I used to live! It looked familiar and I knew I should’ve been able to guide him without any problem, but, well, it’s me we’re talking about here.

Fortunately, Vince is a patient man. It’s also fortunate that once he has driven to a particular destination, he usually doesn’t need directions the next time. This, to me, is unfathomable. It’s like understanding quantum physics without getting a headache just from contemplating the subject matter.

And then they invented GPS systems. You’d think I’d have gotten one immediately, wouldn’t you? Well, I’m also cheap and was waiting for the price to drop. I did, however, get an iPhone and it has a little GPS system on it. Yay. I thought my navigational problems were solved!

Not so fast there, Skippy…

I’ll give you a perfect example. Last year we drove to northern Michigan to visit my cousins. I’ve been there countless times and have even gotten myself there on quite a few occasions, although not always without incident or without taking, as I’ve started calling them, “Jane Detours.”

This time we were driving to another cousin’s house and I’d never driven directly from here to there.

For some reason, Mapquest was wrong (imagine that), and at about Hour 7 we were left scrambling for the atlas to compare it to Mapquest. And just so you know, northern Michigan (north of Traverse City), has a lot of little back roads without any landmarks. You can drive around for days and not find your way. Or at least I could.

Anyway, I finally remembered my iPhone’s GPS system, so I plugged in the address of our destination and started from our “current location.” We faithfully followed the instructions even watching the little dot as it plotted our progress. Suddenly, the little dot stopped and indicated we were at our destination. I looked up from my trusty iPhone expecting to see my cousin’s house…only to see that we were on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere!

Vince, who’d never before been to northern Michigan, looked at me as if I was supposed to know what had gone wrong. That’s like expecting your mechanic to perform delicate arthroscopic surgery on your knee because he uses tools and knows how to fix stuff.

Fortunately, I was able to reach another cousin who somehow managed to get us back on track and we eventually arrived safely at our destination.

So my faith in GPS systems is not absolute, but there is always hope. Plus, I think I am trainable. Like, for instance, right now I can tell you that I’m in a building situated on the southeast corner of the street and my desk is facing south.

And that, my friends, is progress.

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