Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Lost in Hotlanta

Last Thursday I left the small hamlet of Arab, Alabama, on my way to the bright lights and big city of Atlanta. Or as we Southerners call it “Hotlanta.” I was attending the Moonlight and Magnolias Conference and wanted to be there early to meet with an editor. So, I packed my SUV with suitcases filled with more clothes than I would wear in three days and headed out.

I know nothing about Atlanta except that the traffic is atrocious and there are lots and lots of roads. I printed out a map from Mapquest that supposedly led me directly to the conference hotel. Yeah, right. It had subtle turns and directions which, when I didn’t understand what a subtle right ramp was (subtle my rear end – it was a fork in the road and not a ramp until you got on it and started going down which you couldn’t see was a ramp unless you were in a helicopter), I ended up right in the middle of where I was not supposed to be. Ok, I wasn’t lost yet. I tried to turn around near the Carter Center. Bad move. It’s a lot of one-way streets that ended up putting me out near a street I recognized from my map – Ponce de Leon. But I needed West Ponce de Leon. Surely, I thought, if I kept traveling it would turn into the “West” part. Nope, it didn’t. I again missed the subtle right which would have taken me to downtown Decatur where the conference was. Instead, I started going toward Stone Mountain. As an aside, I always wanted to see the base relief of Lee and Davis on the side of the mountain – just not that day! I was running out of time – I had an hour before I had to meet with the editor and I was hopelessly lost!

My next brilliant move was turning into one of the fancy subdivisions so that I could get my bearings. Neighborhood watch was in effect. In Georgia, Alabama plates are always suspect. Half the neighborhood came out on their porches to stare meanly at me but no one approached my car. I tried waving and smiling but they didn’t move. I didn’t think I should leave the safety of my car because I didn’t know if they had guard dogs. So, I figured I’d better get out of there before they set their servants on me. Yeah, it was one of those neighborhoods. And, it had a lot of one-way streets. I just got loster and loster (is Loster a word? Probably not but it’s how I felt). I drove on, searching for a convenience store – any place where I could pull in. You know, that subdivision didn’t have any. I wondered as I drove where these people bought gas and Snickers.

I finally found Ponce de Leon and struck out again. This time I chose a less affluent neighborhood to stop in. I called my husband and in a tearful voice told him I was lost. Did I get any sympathy? Nooo. He asked me what he could do about it when he was in Huntsville, in an operating room, and not in Atlanta. Remind me to make sure he gets lost the next time I am supposed to be navigating and he’s driving. Another aside – he can’t find his way out of a paper bag…I digress. By this time, I had been lost for an hour. I had plenty of gas but my nerves were gone. I sat there in that little neighborhood and gave myself a firm talking to. “You are an adult, with a college degree and a doctorate degree. Are you going to let this defeat you?” I wavered for a moment, considering an affirmative answer to that, then my stubborn Scot-Irish roots kicked in. I was going to make my meeting and I was not going in there looking like a raccoon (mascara) from crying. I told myself to pony-up and figure this out.

My car has GPS built into it. I just never took the time to learn how to work the dad-blasted thing. Sitting in a neighborhood somewhere in Decatur Georgia looked like the time I was going to learn. I started messing with the thing, getting it wrong a few times but eventually the lady’s voice came on and we started our trip. Seems I wasn’t that far from downtown Decatur so I listened intently to her directions (based upon the hotel’s address) and began to get a little of my confidence back. Until…she said “Trip Ended” and I was sitting at the Dekalb County Courthouse. She had told me to turn left and I did which put me in a little half-circle drive where all the buses came through I assume to pick up alleged defendants (my luck would be that one wanted my car). That was it! I was finished. I slammed the car into park and rolled down my window to ask anyone who passed by where the $#^&* hotel was. A very nice young man laughed and said “Lady, it’s the next street over. Just keep turning right at the intersections.” I could have jumped out of the car and kissed him but I didn’t want to get arrested.

I made my way to the hotel with a few minutes to spare. I met with the editor who noticed I was still shaking. I started to tell her I had some disease like the DTs, anything except that I had been lost for the last hour and a half because I stupidly trusted a map (making her question my intelligence). I didn’t come up with some exotic disease – I admitted to being shaken up from being lost. She felt sorry for me. Whew!

The one thing I can say about the experience is that I will not trust any Internet map with directions again. Nor will I trust the GPS – stupid talking woman in there, all arrogant and superior. Nor will I call my husband for help again (he did call me back and asked what he could do to help at about the time I pulled into the hotel parking lot). I didn’t stay at that hotel but rather in one downtown by the Fox Theatre. I parked my car at my hotel and took cabs to the conference. I was not venturing out on Ponce de Leon again (and I wasn’t wandering till I found the Fountain of Youth ending up like poor ol’ de Leon). I am still having nightmares about neighborhoods with no convenience stores…

Have you ever been lost? Or Loster? How did you finally become Found? And, as for Mapquest, Google or any of the other direction-giving (is that a word?) websites, have they ever given you bad directions? AND, does anyone else share the urge to smash that GPS thing and drag that woman out of it? Stupid superior-talking…


  1. So sorry about your shake-up, Cheryl. But I can't help but laugh at the hoops you had to jump through in order to get to that hotel. Thank goodness, you made it to your meeting in time. If anything, I think the editor realizes you are willing to do whatever it takes to be responsible and dependable. So glad things turned out the way they did!!

    We were going to Yankee's Stadium. Anyone who's been to the old stadium knows what a feat that is. Don't take a wrong turn or you'll end up in the Ghetto. And don't end up in the Ghetto in a Aerostar Minivan with four young children, with a woman in the front seat unfolding a map screaming 'We're all gonna die!' (It hadn't been long since that poor couple had driven onto a wrong street that deadended and were killed in LA.)

    My story has a happy ending. We found our way out of the graffiti laden buildings and spent a fantastic day enjoying baseball legends. Good times! But I guarantee you we never made that turn again after that.

    So, now when we are driving places, don't be surprised if I get antsy. Being lost is one of my pet peeves and deepest fears. Growing up I would watch my parents argue in the front seat. The clear and obvious sign that we were lost, my mom was rumaging over a map. When I asked if we were lost, I was promised we weren't. So why did it take us twice as long to get to where we were going? Kids aren't dumb and often grow up with complexes over things like this. ;(

  2. Oh yeah, I've been lost. One time, years ago, I took a wrong turn and at the end of a long and winding road I turned the corner and ran smack dab into a guard shack for a Texas prison farm. Lovely. I did a three point turn and got out of there asap. I've also been lost in Atlanta. Basically I missed my exit because the traffic on the loop was so heavy I couldn't get over. I ended up going way out of my way to find where I was going. On the way home, I got out the atlas and plotted a way home on two-lane roads that kept me well clear of the interstate. I still hate driving in Atlanta. :-/


  3. Kathy - Yes, I have been lost in New York City. On the subway, I got on the wrong train and ended up in a seedy part of the Bronx. Needless to say I got back on the train. My parents also fought about being lost and also told us kids we were fine - the scenic route. I hate the scenic route now. LOL

    LJ - Lost in Atlanta is no fun. The thing about all this was the hotel clerk told me that Mapquest and Google don't work well in Atlanta. Gee, guess I would just need the lady when I am taking the scenic route. I am with you - I will take my own map from now on, write down my own directions and if I get lost again I have no one to blame but myself.

  4. Have I been lost? Oh, yeah. And loster and lostest. It happens to me on a regular basis. I have faced it. I have no sense of direction, though I can follow a map and GPS is my friend. I get lost in my own town going to places I visit regularly. It's embarrassing, yet I have just told it on the Wide World Web. My friends who know about it tease me and laugh. "Don't let her lead!" they say. I laugh and pretend it doesn't matter to me, that's it's just part of my zany madcap personality but I hate it. I have come to accept that it has nothing to do with intelligence. It just is. Thanks to Real Simple magazine, I do understand I'm not the only person in the world with this problem. It said in that article, "No one ever gets so lost they don't get to go home again." I'm not so sure of that. Look at the close call Little Red Ridding Hood had.

    Cheryl, you made a remarkably good choice not to call me for help and I wasn't even preforming surgery. They don't let me do that.

  5. I think everyone has been lost in Atlanta if they have ever driven there, even the people who live there.

    I travel with an old fashioned atlas in my car. I often have to pull it out to look at it. Sometimes it is to confirm what Mapquest or Googlemaps tells me, but sometimes it is to find my way after the computer directions have gotten me hopelessly turned around!

  6. Yes to all of the above questions. My name is Sherry and I am directionally challenged. I get lost on a regular basis but the one that stands out the most is the time I got lost going to a retreat. Yes, the same one I will be going to in a few short weeks but, Hah! I know the way now!
    I missed the turn for the interstate and ended up in what I call Santa Claus Land. It's a looonnngg stretch of Hwy 41 between Jasper and Tracy City, TN. Convenience store Cheryl? There's not even a house!! Just mountains on both sides. When I finally realized I was lost with no phone service by the way, there wasn't even a spot to turn around but the middle of the road. I just drove and cried. Then I came up on this little building in the middle of no where that looked like a restaurant. There were lots of cars but no one standing outside until I spotted this man walking toward a truck. The closer I got the wider my eyes got. He had a long white beard, white long sleeve shirt, black pants stuffed into hightop black boots and carrying a knapsack looking thing. He politely told me how to get back to where I needed to be and told me to hurry cos it was getting dark but to drive safely. Oh, and he called me honey several times. One of these brave days I going back up there to see if the place really exist!
    Cheryl I'm glad you got to your appointment and safely. But if we ever travel anywhere together I'm thinking we'll need a third person along on the journey! LOL

  7. One more thing. I loved Linda's post yesterday but the blogger thingy kept eating my post so I finally gave up!

  8. Oh Cheryl, I'm sorry! But I am laughing, because my car turned me all around coming into Atlanta too. Getting out was even worse. I trust the GPS a little too much, I think. But when you're driving alone, you can't read the MapQuest directions to yourself. Not without possibly running into something or someone. I didn't cry coming in, but I did going out. I just wanted to find damn I-75, and my GPS had me in Buckhead, driving past shopping malls and fancy houses. I called my husband too. He wasn't any help either.

  9. Jean - I thought for a few minutes that I would be so lost I would never go home again! The real frustration was that I had a general idea the direction of the hotel but I just couldn't find a street that went that way. And, those courteous Atlanta drivers kept cutting me off! I realized then, however, that maybe I should get out more. There was an article today on AOL that said we all drive mindlessly when we are near home and on familiar ground. The article went on to say that when we are in a lot of traffic and some place unfamiliar, our brain waves pick up. Mine were so active last Thursday that they were sending messages to Mars!

    Stephanie - I usually have an atlas in the car but I had removed it thinking I didn't need it because I had the Mapquest directions. That's what I got for thinking.

    Ooo... Sherry. Strains of Hotel California! Maybe we should investigate and see if that place was real. And yes, we need a navigator - Chekov at the helm. I honestly never usually get lost but last Thursday was a real doozy. We should really go up Highway 41, with plenty of gas and maps, to see if and what that place was. Sounds like an expedition.

  10. Sorry Lynn! What was it about Atlanta? I got lost leaving too but this time it was because downtown was closed off for a cancer run. I ended up on the campus of Georgia Tech. By then I didn't care, I stopped in the middle of the road and asked a student. I was about a block from I-75. I don't think any of us should go solo to Atlanta again. We need someone to read the maps and the blasted itty bitty signs.

    Is your GPS that woman's voice? I swear. I also did one other thing I didn't admit to in the blog. I accidently hit the button which makes her speak in Japanese. She was even uppity in Japanese! I had to cancel the trip and start over. Maybe I should have left it in Japanese for all the good she did me.

  11. Cheryl, some people get John Cleese in their GPS system. And yes, he's witty on it. I'd love to have something like that.

    Cheryl and Lynn, y'all need a navigator on board. And it would make the trip go by more happily as well. ;)

    I love our vacations. Once hubby took a wrong turn going from Carlsbad Caverns toward Durango, Colorado. We ended up going up a mountain on back roads. Seriously, a whole mountain, until we were able to reach another more hospitable road. Imagine that, an SUV full of 4 kids, one Grandmother and two parents, one of which I can tell you was not a bit pleased about this new track of events. (I'm not a fan of mountain roads, especially the real curvy kind and more importantly, not gravel... )

  12. Cheryl, I'm LOL-ing about the voice in Japanese! Yes, mine is a woman too, but she speaks English to me. :) I agree about not traveling solo to Atlanta again. Gawd what a pain!