From the age of 10, I proudly displayed a pin on my backpack that read: “Mentally confused and prone to wandering.” It couldn’t have been more fitting. I get lost in my own neighborhood. I’ve also driven over 30 miles on the freeway, before realizing I was heading in the wrong direction. It isn’t uncommon for me to wander aimlessly in huge circles, or figure 8’s, attempting to get from point A to point B. The crux of the problem is, I never really know what direction I’m heading. As long as I am going straight, my mind is convinced that I’m always heading north. This is no way to travel. Maps are useless to me. How I managed to get anywhere before owning a GPS is a miracle. In fact, I even get lost using a GPS.
My lack of direction extends beyond side streets, highways, and freeways. I even get lost in parking lots. Not just on occasion, but almost every time. Parking lots are the most challenging. There are just way too many dimensions to remember: floor/entrance/color/number. With enough patience, I usually find my car … but one time, I didn’t. I knew I had parked in a garage at Wayne State University in Detroit. And was pretty sure I knew exactly which garage (it wouldn’t have been the first time I loked for my car in the wrong garage). My natural instinct wasn’t to assume my car was stolden. My instinct told me that I simply misplaced my vehicle. I had no memory whatsoever of ever parking it, walking out of my car, or down a stairwell. It was as though I had completely blacked out during that entire sequence of events.
After spending a good 45 minutes looking for it, covering what I assumed was every square inch of the garage, I finally wondered that maybe it had been stolen. Bowing my head in shame, I turned myself into Campus Security.
“I think my car may have been stolen,” I said. “Or, more than likely, I may lost it.” The security officer produced the necessary paperwork for me to fill out, before I convinced them that what I really needed was more manpower to find my car. Riding shotgun in a campus security vehicle, we finally found my car – right where I left it.
I blame my direction-disability on Canada. I am a lifelong metro Detroiter, which meant growing up with Canada as a neighbor. To get to Canada from Detroit, you actually have to go south, which seems to defy all logic. This topsy-turvy geographical fact not only blew my mind, but caused mass confusion for the bulk of my life.
From the time I could ride a bike, I could get lost. My lack of directional acumen reached a crisis point a few years back when I worked at an ad agency, where I served in the capacity as a glorified office assistant. One afternoon, my boss asked me to pick up a famous game show host from the airport. This gentleman was not only a client of the agency, but my boss’s best friend. My main objective was to get him back in the office for a “very important meeting.” It is important to note that this was before I owned a GPS. Somehow, I managed to get to the airport without getting lost. However, it was getting the client back to my office that proved to be a struggle.
I waited alongside the curb for a face to emerge that I knew I would immediately recognize. I spotted him immediately, wearing a leather biker jacket and a leathery tan. I offered to shake his hand, but he put his carry-on in my hand instead.
“So how was your flight, Mr. Game Show Host?” I asked, as I escorted him out to my car.
“Fine,” he said, in a tone that suggested that I should just shut the fuck up. So I did.
I decided to just focus on getting back to the office as quickly as possible, trying not to think about he fact that I was responsible for the safe transport of a celebrity. Yet, all I could think about was Holy shit, I’m driving a fucking game show legend around town! Don’t crash! Don’t crash! Don’t crash! In my paranoid effort to stay focused on not killing a legendary game show host, I ended up taking him the wrong way on the freeway for almost 20 miles, when I should have been nearing my exit. Had I realized my mistake right away, it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal. Once he realized what was going on, I profusely apologized. His silence spoke volumes. My boss, however, was not so silent when we arrived late to the meeting. Nor was he silent when he tore me a new asshole on top of the many new ones he had already tore me (the job was never meant to be – mostly because most of job duties involved working Spreadsheets, which is something I just don’t simply excel in (pun intended).
This wasn’t my first miscue with the game show host. He already had a chip on his shoulder over a fax I had sent him a couple of weeks prior. It wasn’t the content of the fax that pissed him off. The problem was that I sent the document at 8:30 a.m. Detroit time. He was in Los Angeles. As I came to find out, he kept his fax machine in his bedroom, which led to the resulting conversation:
“Do you know what time it is, Bob?”
“My time, or yours?” I asked.
“My time, Bob. My time. It is 5:30 fucking in the morning … Bob.”
“I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”
“Damn right it won’t … Bob.”
For the record, the fax wasn’t even work related. It was an itinerary for a Caribbean cruise my boss and his family was taking with their star client.
Although these two incidents didn’t directly lead to my firing shortly after, it certainly didn’t help. My short-lived days as a directionally-challenged gopher/chauffer were mercifully over. Fortunately, my first GPS was waiting just around the corner. I just had to make sure I didn’t make a wrong turn trying to locate it.