A few years ago, Vin and I took a trip to Barcelona with my family. Of the six of us, my husband was the only one who didn’t speak a lick of Spanish, which by most accounts would make him the least useful member of the troop. But of course, because Vin is essentially a human compass, the opposite was true. He became the unofficial leader of our travels, while the members of my family–myself included–just followed him around like a pack of sheep. Vin’s sense of direction is so sharp he doesn’t even truly require GPS or maps or a cell phone. I imagine he could just stick a thumb in the air and be able to point himself due north.
<Vin mapping the route. Aunt and uncle dreaming of tapas.>
<Me, Aunt, Dad. Strong jaws; weak navigators.>
My kinkfolk are very bright and talented in many ways, but it’s a well-documented fact that none of us can find our way out of a paper bag. I can’t be sure without checking some old records, but it’s entirely possible that a lack of direction is how the first settlers of our family ended up in the state of Texas. They probably had their sights set on California but got frustrated on the journey and said, “Aw, hell. I can’t figger this stupid map out. Let’s just stay here.”
Although I rather hoped it would skip a generation, I definitely inherited the poor direction gene. It is my burden and it is my birthright, and though it is often embarrassing and damn inconvenient, my inability to walk a straight path to any destination is one of many traits that connects me to my clan. I’d rather not share with you how many times I’ve led visitors to the city around in circles (cough…cough…it happened last weekend) or gotten completely flustered while mapping out my path to a restaurant, store, baby shower, or job interview only to arrive at my destination sweaty, distressed and exhausted.
One might think that living in a place for 15 years would orient me to the various trains, bus routes, bridges, tunnels, bike paths and overpasses that connect one section to another, but that is unfortunately not the case. My ability to get lost within my own town is in direct proportion to the times I leave my house. If I haven’t been there before, there is a fairly high probability that I will amble in the completely opposite direction of my destination before realizing my mistake, making a pivot turn and doubling back.
Eventually I will figure out where I am going but it will most likely include any, or all, of the following: heavy breathing, rapid pulse, pursed lips, unsuppressed whining, and noticeable pit stains. Some people find these high-tech gizmos called smartphones and GPS to be useful in their quest to find shit. Some people stop and ask for directions or pull out the old-fashioned paper maps from days of yore. Some people are just beyond help, and can get themselves lost while using a combination of all three. I am one of the unfortunate fools who falls into the latter category, and for that I blame my father. Out of respect to the man, I won’t tell you all the filthy names my dad has called his car’s GPS system, but I can assure you the apple don’t fall far from the tree. (good thing too. I’d never find my way back.)
As I hinted in my last post, the last few weeks have been pretty stressful, and more and more, I find myself needing a quiet reprieve from city life. Vin had to work all weekend, so when an invitation to spend the day in a beautiful leafy town called Cold Spring came around, I couldn’t resist. I was so excited to spend a sunny Saturday with Vin’s brother, his wife and their twin babies that I high-tailed it to Penn Station, bought myself a ticket and hopped right on the train.
To Cold Spring Harbour. On Long Island. I traveled a whole hour on the wrong damn train line. That’s impressive, even for me.
So I didn’t get to spend the day bouncing a chubby baby on my knee or swirling a glass of white while giggling with my sister-in-law; instead I nestled right back into a pleather seat on a city-bound commuter train, surrounded on all sides by 20-something Long Island bros heading into Manhattan for a big night out. Instead of fresh, clean, Cold Spring air, I found myself breathing in stale beer and excessive cologne. I was disappointed, but I can find the humor in it too.
It didn’t turn out to be the relaxing Saturday I had mapped out for myself, but what are you gonna do? It’s the potholes in the road that keep the ride interesting. If there weren’t unexpected detours and delays, we’d never know that feeling of pure gratitude when we finally arrive where we’ve always wanted to go. There’s a reason for those bumper stickers, the ones that promote life as a journey, and not a destination.
It’s to make dorks like me feel better about getting lost all the time.