Getting Lost: Memoirs of A Non-Explorer


I have often told friends that if I had accompanied Christopher Columbus on his maiden voyage to The New World, he would probably have discovered New Jersey and been convinced he was in Singapore. I am one of the many middle-aged adults in this world suffering from an affliction known as “no sense of direction.” I could get lost inside a large paper bag.

They say remembering landmarks will help. Back in the days when I went to New York University and lived in Brooklyn, I often took evening classes. I went home via the Manhattan Bridge, which I could always find by the yellow sign of Modell’s Sporting Goods where I had to make a left turn. Well, everything was just fine until the day Mr. Modell decided to take the sign down for repairs. It took me about twenty minutes to find the entrance to the bridge!

I know of no studies that indicate a sense of direction (or the lack thereof) is inherited, but I am convinced it is. My father was a brilliant physician, but could lose direction as swiftly as the wind shifts. My mother was even worse and she would always turn right when she was in doubt. I inherited this from her. I have no children so I hope I have broken the chain.

Late one Christmas morning a few years ago, I left my home in Pennsylvania and headed to New York City, hoping to arrive in the early afternoon.  There was some construction and a detour on a highway I had traveled many, many times. I remember I made the turn for the detour but somehow got lost and couldn’t find my way back to civilization. I rode and rode, passing only cows and horses, and then, finally, I turned right, knowing my odds were 50-50.

I found myself in in Madison, New Jersey.  I was so grateful that I wasn’t in the better-known Madison, Wisconsin that I didn’t mind being there for a while.  This was followed by a 2 1/2 traffic jamb on a six-lane highway that left me cursing like a sailor all the way to New York City.

The worst part was that I knew my boyfriend would be very worried. I had called him at 11 am so he was expecting me by 1 PM.  Here it was 4:30 and I, who could have flown almost all the way to Paris within this time frame, still wasn’t there!

I owned no cell phone in those days and it was, in fact, this experience that made me decide to buy one. I spotted a pay phone 3 lanes over to the right. A half-hour of maneuvering finally got me there, only to discover that it wasn’t working! I cannot repeat what came out of my mouth.

There is no easy solution for me. GPS devices help but not all the time, for they too make mistakes. The ultimate solution might lie in a club for people like me. You know that old expression: Birds of a feather flock together. Perhaps a job that would force me to deal with my problem is the answer? Maybe I should become a pilot or the head navigator of an ocean liner? My advertisements could guarantee new and different destinations each and every trip!

There is no hope, but I do like commiserating. Why not pay me a visit sometime and we can talk? Don’t ask me for directions, though.

You are on your own.

(photo courtesy of Lupoalb6/