Monday, March 15, 2010

Lost




Every time I complete a new blog entry, I immediately e-mail my new post to each of my four siblings. They've known me longer than anyone and they've supported me dutifully through all my career, husband, and hairstyle changes. I greatly value their opinions. So a few entries ago, when I sent off my latest piece, I attached a quick note, confessing that my ideas for topics were running a little dry, and if anyone had a suggestion, I'd gratefully accept it. My sister Kathy responded almost immediately with a long, really creative list (rest assured, you will be seeing her ideas implemented in several upcoming posts).

But there was one of Kathy's suggestions that I didn't quite understand at first glance. It simply read, "Your GPS." Now, Kathy knows that we have a GPS system in our car. Don't get me wrong, it's been a wonderful, handy tool to own, I love it! But why, I wondered, does Kathy believe that an electronic device mounted in my dashboard makes an interesting writing topic? Then it hit me. Kathy wasn't referring to my car's digital mapping system. She was talking about MY "internal" GPS. It's a fantastic idea, actually, because my internal GPS is seriously BROKEN. Always has been. My sweet sister, trying her very hardest not to sound insulting, wrote, "Your GPS," instead of, "Write about how you have absolutely no sense of direction whatsoever and couldn't possibly find your way out of a paper bag!" That's probably how I would've put it, had the roles been reversed!

I don't even know how to begin to describe my direction ineptness. I absolutely despise the "traffic reporter" that broadcasts over my radio in the middle of rush hour, who spends about seven seconds telling me about the 900 accidents that have occurred that morning. Mr. Speedy-Talker then informs me about all the "huge back-ups," and the better, quicker routes to take. By the time I'm able to mentally locate the first intersection mentioned and figure out it's relation to where I am, I've completely missed what has happened there and all the information about ways to avoid it. I scream at my radio "SLOW DOWN!" or, "SAY IT AGAIN!!" That bastard never listens.


The city of Orlando, where I lived for sixteen years, is a fairly modern place with navigable highways and tourist-friendly, easy-to-understand signage. I got lost daily! I'd do great going from our house to work, but it was when I had to make stops in between those two places where I'd get all turned-around. Poor Alan just learned to live with the inevitable calls he'd receive from me saying, "OK, I'm at Whole Foods, I need to get to the pet store, do I get on I-4 for that?" Or, "Well, I was trying to get to the courthouse downtown and somehow I ended up in Fort Lauderdale. How do I get home?" To his credit, my sweet, kind husband has never, EVER said what most would remark at these moments. Things like, "Wow, you really are a big, dumb idiot, aren't you?" or "You're exhausting me! Can't I just put you in a Home somewhere?" No, my Sweetheart simply asks me to identify the nearest landmark, then verbally points me in the right direction. I really love that man!!

You can imagine Alan's response when we purchased our new car a few years back, and the dealer inquired if we would like to include the new GPS system in our package. I hesitated, thinking it seemed like an awfully extravagant electronic toy. If I remember correctly, Alan said something along the lines of, "YES, YES, OH DEAR GOD, YES!!! Install the GPS! I don't care how much it costs!!"

The really comforting part of my handicap is that my sister, Laura, is just as directionally challenged as I am. When we were teens, we'd leave together on a shopping trip, get involved in a deep conversation as we drove along, then suddenly snap back into reality. We'd inevitably look around at our unfamiliar surroundings and then exclaim, "Hey, who moved the mall?"

The best example of our busted internal GPS came when Laura and I were in high school and were asked to perform our "Honey Bun" dance routine on the local TV talent showcase, "The Gene Carroll Show." Gene was Cleveland's very own version of Ed Sullivan, and he hosted a weekly Sunday morning program showcasing all the local "talent" in the Cleveland area. The shows were taped in downtown Cleveland during the week, then broadcast that Sunday. Our dance teacher got Laura and I the gig, but told us she wouldn't be able to take us to the taping, could we get there on our own? NO PROBLEM!! We were sixteen and seventeen, practically grown adults, for crying out loud! Of COURSE we could drive the twenty miles to downtown Cleveland, piece of cake!!

I need to pause this story here to explain something about my father. Dad was/is the biggest Nervous Nellie on the planet. We lived on a cul-de-sac in a quiet, suburban neighborhood in a place called Sagamore Hills. The crime rate was literally non-existent on my street, yet he was convinced that all five of his children would be stabbed, raped, kidnapped, and/or impregnated by the time we each reached the age of twelve. The summer before my sophmore year of college, a few of my female classmates asked if I wanted to skip living in a dorm the following year and get an apartment with them near the theater building. When I approached Dad with the idea, his response was short and sweet: "You'll get raped." Apparently, the "rapage" factor was way higher when you lived in an apartment with four girlfriends instead of a co-ed dorm on campus. Guess where I stayed all four years of college? (Hint: It wasn't in the apartment with my girlfriends!)

So, it goes without saying that even though the exciting, vibrant city of Cleveland was only a mere twenty-five minutes away, the Donnelly children rarely saw it, because my father forbade it. When we became interested in theater and the touring companies of "A Chorus Line" and "Annie" came through town, my mother gave-in to our pleading and agreed to take us, but not to the evening performances. Mom wrote a note to our teachers saying we had dental appointments, got us excused early from school, and we attended the Wednesday afternoon matinees. This, it was apparently determined, was the time of day when downtown Cleveland was much less "rapey."

So, having never really been to the area, Laura and I basically had no idea what route to take to get to our Gene Carroll Show taping. However, mom gave us a map (actually, it was more like a world atlas. Picture a globe, only in book form. In Mom's defense, it did have a "Northeast Ohio" page). We also decided to take a male with us to, you know, fight off all the rapists and such. I had just started dating Alan, so we asked him to come with us. That's right, Alan. Alan, the Alabama boy who had been living in the state of Ohio for all of three months. That Alan. (Seriously, what could go wrong?)

So we actually made it to the taping (Praise God!) with no problems. We arrived at the studio, executed our routine with flawless , sailor-suited perfection and were an immediate, enormous hit. The evening was a complete success! Until...

When we left the TV studio, we immediately noticed that it had gotten really dark. No problem, we thought, we had our trusty atlas. We began our journey home, talking excitedly about the obvious "nailing" of our performance and of our impatience to actually see ourselves on TV. Suddenly, though, things began to look unfamiliar. Alan, who was driving, asked us to consult the globe. Laura and I studied the map and determined that yes, we were definitely headed in the right direction. It was a full thirty or so miles later, when we started seeing signs for Ashtabula, that Alan stopped the car and grabbed the map from us. Apparently, Laura and I had mixed-up the whole east/west thing, and when we told Alan we were definitely headed west, we were, in fact, headed east. We were also out of gas. We rolled into a gas station and called Alan's dad, who told us to just stay put, drove out to meet us, filled our tank and had us follow him home.

Laura and I were sure our father would be fit to be tied when we finally arrived home. I can honestly tell you that I don't have the slightest recollection of what played-out when we walked through our front door late that night. They say that people who undergo traumatic events are often unable to recall that experience after they recover. They say the mind acts as a kind of buffer to allow peaceful healing. Perhaps this is what happened to my memory of that night. I guess we'll never know. I DO remember, however, very vividly, the next morning when Laura and I came drowsily down to the breakfast table, prepared for an intense fatherly tongue-lashing. Dad looked up from his newspaper, turned to my mother and said, "Hey, look who's here. It's Louis and Clark!"

Thanks for reading!! (And thanks, Kathy!!)

38 comments:

Rachel said...

HA HA HA HA HA!

Am I really the first to comment?

Rachel said...

Okay, now for the "real" comment... I just had to click "POST COMMENT" before someone else beat me to it ;)

That punch line is HILARIOUS! I love it!

And funny, I thought I was the only one with parents who assumed that every male was out to injure or kill me if I was unchaperoned... (thus my pleadings of, "PLEASE can I go to McDonald's with the rest of my class on Tuesday at noon? I promise I'll use my ballet self-defense and cary my pepper spray, PLEASE?!")

And I snorted at Alan's reaction to the offer to install GPS - cuz my husband would duct-tape his hunting Garmin to me if he could :)

We live in a Zoo! said...

Lol!!!!

Yankee Girl said...

Now I don't feel so badly about myself! When I am in a familiar area I do alright, but I get lost everywhere else. I could have very well written, detailed directions and I will still get lost. Thank goddess my husband is a great navigator or I may never find my way home!

Sylvia K said...

Well, this got my day off to a chuckling start! The older I get the more inclined I am to suffer from "directional ability lapse" but as long as I don't have to go into any unfamiliar territory such as three or so blocks out of our neighborhood, I do just fine. But even to find new places within the familiar territory frequently requires printing out a detailed map from Mapquest. Have a great time in Vegas!!

Sylvia

lifeshighway said...

LOL, and thus a family story was born

BigSis said...

My sister and I are both lacking in the directions department too. I rely on my GPS; she and my dad still fight over bad directions vs. bad following of directions.

Shana said...

Oh my gosh this is hilarious and a little sad because i am the same way. I still get lost in our mall and I have lived here my entire life and our mall is not that big and is only one level. So don't feel bad.

Rhonda (a.k.a. The Lively Squaw) said...

Oh, boy, do I know how you feel!! It's absolutely futile for anyone to say, "Turn north," or, "Turn south." They have to give me "right," "left," "hang a hard right by the Starbucks on the third corner," etc., etc.

I can't navigate my way out of a paper bag, either.

Here's to the Sisterhood of the Lost!

Ace said...

My husband is "directionally challenged" too, but only in a mall. If I ever want to get rid of him all I'll have to do is drop him at center court and walk away. He will spend the rest of his days wandering and never find the exit...and being a man, he'll never ask.

It always hits me how many co-inky-dinks there are between us. I lived in Orlando, too, but only for two years. January of 1985 to October of 1986. I thought the streets were fairly friendly then, but last time I was back (1998), not so much. I couldn't even recognize some places there was so much growth.

Sinful Southern Sweets said...

LOL! Too funny! And,I thought it was just us southern women that thought we'd be raped, pilaged and plundered after dark :) Hehe!

Tammie said...

its so nice to know im not the only one whose internal GPS is screwy. id like to think that im a fairly high functioning adult, but when it comes to maps and directions, im clueless.

SM said...

I love it. That stop sign pic was my pic on myspace when I had one a couple of years ago. That was how I felt sometimes.

My gps is grand and since I have a teenager who needs to be taken everywhere, it has come in handy. I love her, I tell my kids to shush when she's talking.

Lately, the GPS has been PMSing. It turns off or stops working randomly showing me a pic of a computer. I did plug it to the computer but it didn't work. It feels like she's broken up with me.

Love your blog.

Pink Haired Momma said...

I always love your posts. You have wonderful thoughts and a beautiful writing style.

I am opposite from you on the GPS, I ty and get lost and never can. Makes me so mad sometimes!! I want to be lost so i can find that hidden something but instead my crzy brain directs me perfecty to where i need to be without intruction. UGH!

THE OLD GEEZER said...

I drove a semi truck all over the Southern California area for about 35 years. Lately I have a hard time driving around the block without getting lost. I have become the directionally challenged one in our family. If it wasn't for Mrs. Geezer being my co-pilot I probably couldn't make it down to our local
Taco Bell without getting lost.

Rachel Cotterill said...

This rings so many bells for me. You might be interested to read this (very short!) post that I wrote last year on a similar theme:
http://blog.rachelcotterill.com/2009/04/its-special-talent.html

Kristin said...

Dude. I am the same exact way. Drives the hubs bonkers..ah ha ha. I can't read a map and I've managed to get lost even with the help of our car's GPS. Le sigh.

Chloe said...

I'm excatly the same! I have absolutely no sense of direction. That's why I have a love affair with my GPS!

Matthew said...

My internal GPS was great - right until it encountered Sydney for the first time.

THAT software update took years to download, for some reason. :)

GregoryJ said...

I remember Gene Carroll. Cleveland had the only TV stations that we got on our old tv as long as we turned the antenna in the right direction. He was sponsored by Earl Schieb "I'll paint any car for $29.95" I guess that dates me a little.

My wife lost her sense of direction when we moved 5 years ago. She would call me at work to get directions how to go.
But don't worry, she' got Alzheimer's. Doesn't drive anymore.

Erika said...

OMG. Story of my life. My husband totally gets the same phone calls, "I need to get to the mall, is that on 7 or 17?"

Baby Sweetness said...

With a blog title like that, how could the post not be hilarious! You don't disappoint!

Julie said...

Hilarious! I loved this post! I need to get my sister to read this--no sense of direction whatsoever! I've never really had a problem with it, but my sister....not so much!

Having grown up in the suburbs of Cleveland, too, this was really fun to read! Love your dad's comment the next morning--I kept wondering how you were going to tie the image of Lewis & Clark into your story! (Obviously, they were explorers, but...)

Thanks again for such fun reading! Can't wait to see what you do with your sister's other ideas!

Kellyansapansa said...

I can totally relate to this. Andrew's always making fun of my lack of directional sense. We can be walking down a mall and go into a store. When we come out I have no idea which way to turn to keep walking down the mall. Oh, and don't get me started on the number of times I've lost the car in a carpark!

lakeviewer said...

This was hilarious! Your parents were perfect; I can hear the same words out of my mouth!

lori said...

Great story! And I sooo relate. I'm so happy another reasonably intelligent woman has as horrible a sense of direction as I do. Maps? no. I need "turn left here, right there," and don't tell me any north, south, crap! That just confuses me. Hubby is my GPS too, god love him.

blueviolet said...

I've heard of people who have a bit of a problem with orientation but THIS is ridiculous! LOL

citymouse said...

I am right there with you sister. Don always says it's cute when I'm challenged. I am never quite sure how to take that. He usually just kisses me on the head in some doting fashion. If the highway sign doesn't mention East or West I have no clue what direction I am travelling in. How is it that guys always seem to know?

After reading your blog for all this time, I don't think I realized you were from Ohio. We lived in Cleveland (Coventry) for 4 years when Don was in school. Actually, I only lived there for 3, but he was there 4 years. I love Cleveland. Our first son was born there. We would have stayed but the area was over-populated with podiatrists.

Bossy Betty said...

I've written about being directionally challenged before. I totally get it!

Kakka said...

My eldest daughter is the same, although slowly getting better. She can't read maps either. Living in a small city I have never had that problem. My new car has GPS but I have never used it. Going to other cities in Australia is a little different, then I never no my East from West or North from South. Maybe it is a girl thing?

Samantha said...

I have EXACTLY the same problem. I am forever saying about myself "I can't find my way out of a paperbag." The GPS on my cell phone is in constant use and wonder daily how I got along without it.
The Louis & Clark line is priceless!

Mattbucs said...

Awesome story Joan.

christy rose said...

Oh my that is so funny! What a great family story! You daddy must be quite witty and somewhat sarcastic! :)

Kelly L said...

Very good - I was actually laughing out loud!

thanks
Love to you
kelly

ascu75 aka Don said...

My wife has to do all the driving now I am disabled and has been known to wake me on a journey at a make a decision now point and ask which way do I need to go. I having just woken have no idea what county we are in let alone where we are have to make mental calculations at the speed of light and come up with the wrong answer EVERY TIME. So GPS is a life saver

Shan said...

Too funny!

Heatherlyn said...

That is funny!!!!! I had a really hard time when I first moved to Idaho. I think after 4 years I finally can figure out north east south and west ... but it is completely unintuitive and simply that I've learned where the sun rises every day (and yes, it took me about 4 years to get that settled in my brain). I'm glad you made it to your taping safely!!!!!! (And the GPS in the car is a modern day miracle worth celebrating. Some of them will even take into account traffic accidents and navigate you around them--I think you might have to pay a monthly fee for this service--so that you wouldn't have to listen to that speedy raidio person ever again!)

Lynne said...

This was so funny. Reminds me of my sister and me. No sense of direction whatsoever.

How in the world do you churn out these posts day after day? Your head must be all clogged up with words and then they just come pouring out. You're amazing.

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