Getting Lost: Memoirs of A Non-Explorer
by Marjorie Dorfman
Do you find yourself getting lost more and more often since you have gotten a bit older? Or have you always been that way? Read on for some comfort but little understanding.
When you reach a fork in the road, take it. Yogi Berra
I have often told friends that if I had accompanied Christopher Columbus on his maiden voyage to The New World, he would have discovered New Jersey and been convinced he was in New Orleans. Although these words were spoken in jest, they could not be truer in content. I am one of the many middle-aged adults in this world suffering from an incurable, congenital affliction known as "no sense of direction." I could get lost within the confines of a large paper bag and after many years of not knowing where Im going at any given time, Im getting sick of it.
Dava Sobel, who wrote that fine book, Longitude, dedicated it to her mother who "drove everywhere via Canarsie." I am the same way. When I was in college I went to New York University and lived in Brooklyn with my parents, (connected to Manhattan via a bridge or two, for those of you who dont know). I often took evening classes and found my way to the Manhattan Bridge via a turn whose corner was marked by the yellow sign of a sporting goods store called "Modells." I always knew when that sign appeared that I had to turn left. Well, everything was just fine until the day Mr. Modell decided to re-paint the sign blue. It took me about twenty minutes, as the crow flies, to find the entrance to the damn bridge!
There have been no studies done that I know of, but no one will ever convince me that a sense of direction or the lack thereof isnt inherited. My father was a brilliant physician, but could lose direction as swiftly as the wind. And he would never ask for directions because that would never do. My mother was even worse in this department because she would always turn right when in doubt. I inherited this from her. I have no children so I hope I have broken the chain, but who knows who I might have influenced while lost and on my way to being found!
A few years ago, I was headed for New York City on the afternoon of Christmas Eve and left a bit later than I should have. There was some construction and a detour on a road I had travelled many, many times. I remember I made the turn for the detour, but somehow my car and I could not get re-aligned (or even parallel) with the route I needed to get to my destination. I rode and rode, passing only cows and horses, and then, finally, I did what I usually do when I dont know where Im going. I made my mothers choice to turn right, knowing my odds were 50-50.
I found myself in a town called Madison. I was so grateful that it was in New Jersey and not Wisconsin that I didnt mind being lost for a while longer. That "while" totalled about 2 hours and was compounded by an additional 2-1/2 hours after I finally reached New York City. I found myself in a six-lane traffic jam on Canal Street that had me cursing like a sailor all the way crosstown. The worst part was that I knew my boyfriend would be very worried. I had called him at noon, he was expecting me at 2 PM and here it was 4:30 and I, who could have flown almost all the way to Paris in the same time, still wasnt there!
I owned no cell phone in those days and it was, in fact, this experience that made me decide to buy one. I spotted a pay phone 3 lanes over to the right. A half-hour of maneuvering finally got me there, only to discover that it wasnt working! There went that sailor again, embarassing my poor dead mother and even a lady like myself with her curses.
There is neither treatment nor cure for this disease. I got very excited last year when I heard on Oprah something about a computerized device that is fitted to the dashboard of the car in much the same manner as a radio is installed. One can program any address and this "thingy" will direct you there from wherever you are, turn by correct turn. It only costs about $3,500 and that doesnt include installation which is costly, complicated and only done in places so far away that Im sure anyone would get lost just trying to find them!
Sometimes I feel like "The Lost Patrol" (You know, those brave World War II pilots who went out in search of a few missing planes and ended up missing themselves.) For those of you who consider getting lost a deliberate state of mind, allow me to say ever so gently that you are wrong. Ill concede that perhaps it is some sort of defense mechanism that is learned and reinforced. If one doesnt know where one is going at any given time, one doesnt have to deal with anything else except how to get there. If this is so, I must admit that the behavior is quite self-defeating unless, of course, the reality is that I didnt really didnt want to go there in the first place! Perhaps non-positive thinking might work. if I tell myself that I really dont want to go there, wherever "there" happens to be, maybe the Ill find my way!
The ultimate solution might lie in a club for people like me. You know that old expression: "Birds of a feather flock together." Well, that only applies if the birds in question know where they are going. Maybe a job that would force me to deal with my problem is the answer. Perhaps I should become an air-line pilot or the head navigator of an ocean liner. My advertisements could guarantee new and different destinations each and every trip! If you have any ideas, Id welcome your calls. Better not come to visit me though; that is, unless you know exactly how to get to my house.
Did you know . . .