Monday, June 25, 2012

Directionally Challenged

I have never made a secret of the fact that I have a horrible sense of direction, or as I prefer to call it, being directionally challenged.  The person who gets to his destination with little mental effort has no idea how difficult it is for those of us who sometimes get discombobulated just leaving a parking lot.

A few days ago I had to be in a certain place at a certain time.   Larry gave me what he considered a simple map.  I knew the exit, no problem.  I was positive he had told me to take the first left and then the next right after getting off the ramp.  But something about the road wasn't right.  I pulled over to the side, pulled out the map and looked at the part he had highlighted in yellow.  I was still confused.   But I wasn't going to panic yet, he promised me that he'd have his cell phone close at hand, just in case. I dialed and it rang.  And then it rang again and then again and a few more times before going to voice mail.  My palms started to sweat and my chest tightened as I began to talk out loud.  I always talk to myself when I'm feeling out of control.  This time I added Larry to the conversation as well, addressing him through clenched teeth as I tried the church and house numbers.  The only one who answered was my sixteen-month-old granddaughter who's visiting with her mom from El Paso.  She obviously didn't call her grandfather to the phone.  

Several years ago, long before cell phones were even a concept, I got lost in Rochester, New York.  Larry had spoken at a men's breakfast earlier that morning and I was supposed to meet him at the entrance to the New York thruway around nine or so.  We were driving to Buffalo where I would be speaking at a women's luncheon that afternoon.   I would soon find out that the pastor's wife who told me how to get there is as directionally challenged as I am. 

It wasn't long before I was driving on the widest highway I had ever seen with cars whizzing past me at high speed.  I had no idea where I was, where I was going or how to find my way back.  My two youngest were in the backseat watching, their mother with her hands clutched vice-like to the wheel, talking to herself while blubbering like a baby.  It eventually occurred to me that it might be a good idea to get off the highway, find a gas station and ask for a phonebook.  I was able to stop my shaking long enough to look up the phone number to where we had been staying, to tell the mutually directionally-challenged pastor's wife where I was and to inform her that I wasn't moving from that spot until someone came to get me.  The first thing Larry asked when he saw me was if I realized how far out of the way I had traveled.  Let's suffice it to say that I was considerably late for my engagement, the women had already had their lunch and were waiting for me in the sanctuary.

And then there's the time that we were in Allentown, Pennsylvania.  We had made arrangements to meet our friend Mick at the school where he was studying for the ministry.  Larry immediately jumped out of the car upon seeing him and before I knew it Mick had suggested I might want to drive on over to the trailer park where they lived.  Cindy and their two girls were waiting for us there.  He hastily gave me the directions, assured me that I'd have no trouble finding the way, and suddenly they were gone.

I wasn't too far out before I knew I had no idea where I was, for not only am I directionally challenged, I also have trouble retaining a lot of information at once.  I remembered the first few turns, and then nothing more.  My mind was blank,  I was completely lost with no address, no phone, no number.  And so I did what I do so well in this situation,  I gripped the wheel as tight as I could and cried.  "Sing."   The voice wasn't audible but it spoke nonetheless.  So I sniffed one last time and started singing one of my favorite songs, "Praise the Lord." I don't think I was hardly out of the first verse and chorus when I remember descending a hill and coming up on the other side to find directly in front of me the most beautiful scene imaginable,  a trailer park. 

Last August some friends came from South Carolina to spend four or five days with us.  Unexpectedly, a dear friend from Alabama died right before their arrival and Larry was asked to fly down and perform the funeral service.  I was in a panic. Granted,  I wouldn't have to drive, but they would need me as navigator, getting them where they wanted to go.  When I actually found my way to Watkin's Glen one day, I inwardly breathed a huge sigh of relief.  They had no idea how terrified I was that we might end up somewhere else. There was one afternoon, however, that went particularly badly.  They love thrift stores, and we put some extra miles on their speedometer getting to the Salvation Army.  I knew where it was, I had been there on several occasions.  I just couldn't remember how to get there. 

But I do know how to get to the airport where we picked Larry up the following day.  I was never so happy to see him, a tremendous burden lifted!   On the way home I asked him if he minded making a stop.  It was one of those thrift stores they'd wanted to check out.  I'd tried to take them but ended up somewhere else.  He didn't even hesitate, knowing right where to go.  I wish I could do that,  head somewhere and get there without getting lost first.  

I read an article in Reader's Digest several years ago about people like me.  Turns out there is something in the brain making it difficult for some of us to get to where we want to be.  I suppose that should make me feel better, the realization that it's not my fault, that  I simply don't have the same neurological GPS setup that my husband has.  No, it doesn't make me feel better.  But on the other hand,  he has been there time after time to get me to where I needed to be or at least heading in the right direction.  He rescued me in Rochester all those years ago and just a few days ago, when he realized that he missed my call, he traveled some extra miles to make sure I found my way home. 

While living in Alabama I was hired to play an extra in a movie that was being filmed in our part of the state.  I got word that I was needed in a place about forty-five minutes from where we lived, and had specific instructions to arrive before dawn.  I was terrified I'd not be able to find my way, especially in the dark.  So very early on that first morning Larry drove ahead of me, led me to the movie site, then headed back home.  That was all I needed, and I was able to find my way up and back on the final two days of filming.  I just needed someone to show me the way.