Not All Who Wander Are Lost. A Lot of Them Are, Though, Actually Lost.

Steph - one of my best friends who lives in my computer - said she thought it was brave that I post about depression. It was a nice thing to say, but I don't feel like it's brave. Maybe if it was twenty or thirty years ago, or if I had a job that I was afraid would be affected. Maybe if I'd ever talked about it and been met with anything but sympathy and understanding (well, I did work with one woman who regularly said of one customer - "she's crazy - I think she's on Prozac or something", but she was more clueless than anything).

I feel braver (because I'm more ashamed) admitting that yesterday I said I would take my mom to the new outlet mall in Kanata, and instead of looking up where it was before we went, which I could SO EASILY have done, I relied on my GPS, which was stupid since it was a new address. I have no sense of direction, but with routine and a GPS I've been able to fake my way into being a much more confident driver than I used to be. My friend Margot, who is eminently sensible and capable, always says that maps are infinitely better than GPS... things (how the hell do you write a plural form of GPS?), and I always shrug in what I hope is an attractive manner and gaily exclaim that maps are Greek to me and my GPS has never let me down yet (well, there was that time in Nova Scotia that we were trying to get to a public beach and it led us to some sort of military base, but that was a long time ago and a different GPS that might have had a grudge against us because I made fun of its pronunciation of French street names).
"Lost" by Najwa A. Marafie

So. I picked my mom up around 9:45 a.m. and tried to punch in the address. I should have had alarm bells going off right away when it wouldn't let me enter the right street number, but I just punched in one that I thought was close enough. We hit the highway and took the advised exit and turned on the street and.... came to a gravel dead end. Hoping against hope, I turned around and headed down the street the other way, but it soon became apparent that the street numbers were going down instead of up. I pulled into a Park and Ride and pulled out my phone and tried to look confident that I knew what I was doing, while swallowing a rising sense of panic and desperation.

It's worth noting that my mother is a lovely woman, but very short on patience, and even though she has even less of a sense of direction than I do and was not able to offer a single helpful suggestion, she was radiating a clear sense of disapproval. In fact, when I had first started to program the GPS she had said "what do you need that for? It's just by the Canadian Tire Centre". I asked her if she knew exactly how to get to the Canadian Tire Centre and she said "no".

The thing is, it's true! It's right by the Canadian Tire Centre! I've driven to the Canadian Tire Centre within the last five years! I should know how to get to the flipping Canadian Tire Centre!  But I don't! I know how to point the car in the direction of Kanata, but I don't retain exit numbers and I don't have a map in my head and I don't know how to get un-lost when I'm lost. I should, but I don't. There it is.

So I pulled Mapquest up on my phone and did some stuff and then trepidatiously handed the phone to my mom and told her to read me the directions. Then we got back on the road. She said "we need Highway 417 East Arnprior". I said "yes, I need to get back on the highway." I drove for a while and then realized I had gone too far and needed to turn around and go back to get the highway ramp. My mother was not in favour of this, but held her peace.

"There! Arnprior!" I said, very politely, "it's just the highway. It goes to Arnprior, but that has nothing to do with what we need to know." She told me which exit I needed. We saw an exit. We saw another exit. We were going the wrong way. Again.

We had a GMC Jimmy at one point. It had a console hanging down from the roof that told you which direction you were going. It was a very nice feature in a vehicle.

My mom said, for the second time, "oh, let's just go home." I said we could if she wanted to, but we could still get to the mall, it would just take a little extra time, and I had no plans until the evening and she's retired. She said okay.

We were almost back in Barrhaven by the time I got off the highway, drove up the road and turned back onto the highway. By this point she had almost figured out that she had to touch the phone screen when it faded, or turn the phone back on if it had been too long. She only stabbed the screen four or five times before I said, through gritted teeth "just push the button".

We found the exit. As I was heading up the ramp, I said "does it say to go left or right?" She said "it doesn't say." I said "is there an arrow beside it?" She said "Arnprior?" hopefully. I was looking at the road ahead and pointing blindly with my finger at the phone trying to get her to see where I thought the arrow should be because Jesus Christ I did not want to be going the wrong way again. She said "there it is". I thought she meant the arrow, and then I glanced to my right and saw, like a shining oasis in the desert, like Shangri-La and El Dorado rolled into one, a sprawling monstrosity of a shopping mall.

I burst into hysterical laughter and said "okay, well, why don't we just turn here where the mall is?" My mother giggled and said "Fuck".

So there it is. Judge away.

(We had a map to the mall, and the first time we tried to go back to the car we ended up in the back parking lot instead of the front. We really should be required to travel with a chaperone. A geographically savvy one.)


Maggie said…
I will never judge anyone who gets lost with anything other than kindness because I am SO directionally challenged that I consider it to border on an actual disability. When we first met, H was amazed at my constant and unwaivering ability to head in precisely the opposite direction of where I needed to go even if I'd been to that place before (these were the days before GPS and smart phones). For example, once when lost, I managed to find my way only by pulling a George Costanza and doing exactly the opposite of what I thought was right every time I came to a turn. Worked like a charm. Another time, I found my way out of some insanely complicated neighborhood by following a random person. I had no idea who they were, but they appeared to know what they were doing so . . . I just followed them. I will never be one of those people who unplugs and wanders the outback or the
Appalachian Trail or similar because w/in moments I'd become lost and never find my way to civilization again. There's soul searching and then there's dying in the outback with only kangaroos for company...
StephLove said…
No judgement here. I am so completely hopeless Beth never even asks me for any kind of help when we get lost. I don't radiate disapproval, though, at least I hope not. I'd have no ground to stand on.
Nicole said…
Oh honey. You know just how terrible my sense of direction is. The worst was when I went to go see my new niece, and instead of looking up where my brother's newish house was, I relied on GPS, but the area was too new to be in GPS and I ended up on a gravel road OUTSIDE THE CITY. My husband, when I called him, asked if I could get back on 22X, and I did a U-turn and the road specifically said NO ACCESS TO 22X. I drove for hours and I never did get to see my niece.
Lynn said…
I also have a terrible sense of direction - even now going downtown terrifies me because I can never figure out where anything is. As for the new mall - what did you think? People keep asking me what I think, and I don't have much to say beyond "it's a mall, but you have to walk outside", so hoping to steal your opinion instead :).
Unknown said…
In your defense, Mapquest and Google Maps both have the address of the outlet mall plotted for a FUTURE road. They tend to do that. I work at Shoppers Services (where you get the coupons!) and you wouldn't believe the number of calls we get from people who have been led to Canadian Tire, and then are hopelessly lost. At least you tried to find it on you own! :)
slow panic said…
I have been known to use a GPS and Google Maps on my phone AT THE SAME TIME.

I once got lost in The Netherlands which was terrifying.

My mom just told me that her GPS works well near her home but the farther away she gets the worse it functions. Seriously.
Courtney said…

I make John drive anywhere that requires GPS. I'm too anxious a driver and stress out over not knowing where I'm going.

In fact, this one time we went to the drive in, I pulled over in the actual drive in parking lot because I had no idea how to get to the proper drive in screen that we were supposed to be seeing lol.

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