I have made no secret of the fact that I am directionally challenged. I have a hard time reading maps, knowing which way is north and following oral directions given to me for how to arrive at any destination. So it was with great trepidation that I was mandatorily detoured on my way to work last week.
Apparently, an accident had blocked the road I normally travel to work, and a fireman was waving us all down a side road. As I prepared to make the turn, I put my window down and, as calmly as I could manage, asked the man with the flag how to get to my job. In the meantime, on the inside I was freaking out, perhaps swearing a little, and yelling, “I’ll get lost, you big meanie!”
He told me to go to the T and make a right. Simple enough, yes? I imagine it would have been, except I didn’t see a T. After a few minutes, certain that I had already passed my road, I came to a four-way intersection, so I turned right.
I called my boss, confident he had made enough deliveries to be able to help me. Unfortunately, he was unavailable to take my call. I asked for our delivery driver, but he was off that day. As tears began to well up in my eyes, I hung up; I was certain that I would never find my way back to civilization.
The tears threatened to impair my vision, so I blinked them away and called my husband. I didn’t think he would be familiar with the area I was driving, since it seemed like I was taking a quad path into the woods, but I knew his voice would be enough to calm me down. He didn’t answer. I wanted to scream, but knew I might need to save my voice in case I ended up in an isolated ravine of death. (Yeah, it is that bad for me. Panic attacks happen. It’s not pretty.)
Finally, I saw a beacon of hope in the form of a garbage truck. Someone who travels this road on a weekly basis could surely give me directions back to a road with lines on it, guardrails, or at least a house with indoor plumbing!
I put the car in park and slowly walked toward the garbage man. In the most composed voice I could muster, I squeaked out the question, “Excuse me, but could you tell me how to get back to the main road?”
Do you know what he had the nerve to say to me? “I’m new to this route, ma’am. I can’t tell you much. I’m sorry.” Not as sorry as I am, I thought.
I continued driving, and just when I thought writing my obituary might be prudent, I came out on the same road I had been detoured off of. It had taken me 20 (extremely long) minutes, and I was only a mile from where I started.
I began to calm down once I regained my bearings. Exhausted, I made it to work, prepared for life to go on. After a little while, the day seemed normal, and so did my heartbeat.
Laura Zoeller can be reached at email@example.com.