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…