Once upon a time, a whole career ago, I got lost on the way to work.
You see, I lived in one part of the state, and my office was in another. The only “direct” route from one to the other was a major highway that went north-and-south (along a pretty arching route btw, such that a lot of the time I was, in fact, going east-and-west). Any more “direct” route actually meant a lot of meandering local roads, none of which I was familiar with. With none of which I was familiar.
If things got ugly along my circuitous route home (and they often did), I could find my way home, provided I had to get off the highway somewhere in the last, say, 10 miles before my “home” exit. Anything before that point… or on the other end of things… and I had no idea where I was going. Not my area of the state, you see. No frames of reference to speak of.
And of course, in those days I didn’t have a GPS. Heck, I had barely caved and gotten myself a cell phone.
So, in any case, I got about 3/4 of the way to work that fateful day, and there was a terrible accident that just happened to not just be slowing things down, but actually blocking the road and had closed my exit. My exit to work. The only way to work that I knew. I heard this on the radio traffic report, and so I knew I needed to find another way around. The problem is, I didn’t know another way around. I had become familiar, in a vague sort of way, with a few of the other major routes in the area and very generally the locations of the surrounding towns. But their relationships to each other… all very shaky in my mind.
I took an exit to a route that I knew would be close to work.
But I didn’t know which way to go once I got to the end of the ramp. I guessed a direction.
It was wrong.
I came to something else that was very vaguely familiar. I guessed which way to go from there, trying to sort of feel my way in the general direction of where-I-think-work is.
I guessed wrong again.
I could tell it to you in stages for a while but that’s the gist of it… at every place I had a choice, I chose wrong. Not so wrong that I ended up in another state, or anything, but not getting myself any closer to the office.
This only went on through so many turns… including a quick stop in a gas station that was not open and the one person who was there couldn’t tell me where I was… before I caved and called one of my colleagues. He has lived his whole life up in that area, and he was an early arriver to work, like me. Chances were really good that he’d know the way. Chances were really good that he’d be there to take my call.
As I remember this event, I seem to recall calling twice (the first time he must have been getting his morning coffee, and I wimped out and didn’t leave a message — because surely I could sort this out (NOT) — but the second time he was there, and I probably sounded a little panicky (“lost” is not a good look on me), and he guided me straight to where I needed to be.
I would like to think that I’d eventually have made it anyway, but who knows… I might still be making random turns and taking a very scenic tour of the midatlantic states even now. In any case, he saved the day, and I was glad of it. I am not sure, in retrospect, whether I thanked him not enough, or too much. But I remember being incredibly thankful. Never before or since had the office been such a welcome sight!
What brought this little adventure to mind was the fact that I went to my parents’ house for the weekend. Father’s Day, you know. The only problem with visiting my parents in the summer time is that a lot of people use the same route I use to get to their house, to get to the shore. They are nowhere near the shore, but, hey, there are only so many routes (BAH, there are millions of routes, practically the whole state is paved… but only so many go to the shore).
I have lived in the general area where I live for… well, decades now that I think of it. Likewise, my parents where they live. So while there aren’t all that many alternate routes that will get me from here to there efficiently, I do know a few, having had plenty of time and opportunity to find them.
The problem is choosing the right one. So this weekend, I avoided THIS road that is all backed up by popping over to THAT road as an alternate, probably taking more time between the transition and the traffic than I would have sat in if I’d stayed put. And then I took THIS route to avoid THAT traffic, and ended up in MORE traffic. And then I made THAT turn which should in theory let me avoid all of THIS mess if I just catch THAT further up but THAT didn’t allow a left so I went around the long way hoping to catch THAT OTHER road and …. and….
Well, anything I tried to get myself free ended up in a different pileup. Or somewhere that I didn’t know at all. And at one point, I found myself sailing in roughly the right direction but on a road I hadn’t ever been on and realized after a bit that probably – just probably – it would be worthwhile to pop the GPS into play and let it get me where I was hoping to get. And it was good that I did (and when I did) because it told me to catch a sidestreet left (which curved back a bit in the direction I’d come, but not much), to get to where I was actually going. I have no idea where I would have ended up if I’d kept sailing on. I suppose I should pull a map and find out, just to see.
But in any case, it seemed to me that whatever decision I made was the wrong one, and that made me think of the day I couldn’t get myself to work for much the same reason. So… hello out there to my friend who saved the day that day. Hope your Father’s Day weekend is a great one.