Monday, July 22, 2013

Fabric of reality
Y'all know all the support groups out there?  Millions of them exist.  There's one or many for every issue, every phobia, every dream that can be imagined.  The one that doesn't seem to be covered is a support group for direction challenged people.  I'm not altogether certain that such a support group should exist, mind you, but I'll get to that part a bit later on.

Anyone who knows me really well is at least peripherally (ha...direction joke!) aware that I have a poor sense of direction.  No, really.  I know, I know.  You're thinking, "Nah, she's just exaggerating.  I know she's intelligent.  I know she has her life together.  No way in the world is something as simple as navigating going to cause problems for her."

Well, thank you for those lovely accolades, but this time, you really should believe me.

You know who you are.  

You're the ones who listen when I admit this failing and then brush it aside, thinking it's a throwaway statement meant to inspire comic relief.  Shame, shame on you. While I agree that it can get comical, just you day, you'll have to deal with the reality of my poor brain's inability to orient and follow directions.  Or a map.  THAT can be downright dangerous, putting a map in my hands and expecting me to get from Point A to Point B. In the future when this happens with unbelievable amounts of weirdness and you're part of the experience, don't say I didn't try to warn you.  

And you might want to get comfortable for the rest of this, because this is going to take a bit of explaining.  Or maybe a lot of explaining.  Suffice to say, it's going to take a while!

I've shared in the past that I have a low grade level of dyslexia when it comes to numbers, and in my opinion, that must exist close to the same genetic marker for the inability to navigate well.  I have a friend who has insisted on calling me Magellan since we were teenagers, and he did not apply that nickname out of flattery.  He has been in the mix of my myriad misadventures more than once over the years.  He believes me now, but it took multiple episodes to convince him.  Hence the Magellan nickname.

So, yesterday, I was visiting a girlfriend's home for the first time.  She doesn't live far from me; she's just in an area of town that I don't frequent.  And she lives off of a main highway that is notoriously busy and has a high number of fatalities each year.  Yes, that part is very reassuring and inspiring, isn't it?!

I write the directions down.  They're fairly simple.  They require me to go through downtown Knoxville because there's still construction going on on our main bridge across the river.  That construction, by the way, is shaping up to last an absolute eternity.  Those of us who live here are beginning to grow accustomed to the visual of an empty span in the air where the main bridge is supposed to be.

Anyway, I go through downtown and suffer through traffic on Gay Street where one couple decided to stroll in a very leisurely fashion across the street at the stop light when the danged light was GREEN.  I know that there was no way on earth that the Walk / Don't Walk sign was telling them to Walk across the street during a green light, but hey, I guess they were rebels.  I slammed on my brakes to avoid plowing them over and neither of them were even bothered enough to glance over at my vehicle that could have flattened them.  Nope, they were consumed with their moseying pace, not a care in the world.  Okay.  I am not prone to road rage at all, but at that moment, oh my word, it was tempting to do something drastic!  I resisted, because there was an agenda to get through downtown and find my girlfriend's house. I'm rather proud that no one got splattered all over Gay Street that afternoon.  It was iffy there for a few minutes as to whether that would happen to a few people.  Read on, please, for the second example of one who deserved, nay, was just ASKING to be splattered.

About twenty feet further down the street, a woman suddenly comes from the right side of the street between two large trucks on a bicycle, looking UP the street away from oncoming traffic.  As heedless and oblivious as you please, she walks her bicycle out into my lane and stops.  Dead still.  Looking up the street rather than towards oncoming traffic.  Meaning ME in my car.  My MOVING car that weighs a lot and could kill said cyclist if I hadn't hit my brakes for the second time in the span of perhaps 10 seconds.  Again, I resisted the urge to commit vehicular homicide and politely tapped my horn to bring her out of her daydreaming haze.  She turned her head and blinked owlishly as though to indicate I was the one at fault, then she took her time turning and sloooowly walking her bicycle back off the street.

Now I'm annoyed.  I admit it.  Who wouldn't be?!  You would be. And you might be less gracious than I was and hit the gas pedal, rather than your brakes.  Which is why it's a good thing it was me driving, unless you factor in the direction challenged part that is coming up in this riveting story.  I continue down Gay Street and as I'm almost to the bridge where the street opens up into two lanes, I can't shift to the right lane that leads onto the bridge because someone has parked their pretty, shiny black car right there on the street.  Where there isn't a parking zone.  No parking meters.  Just hey, this looks like a good spot to park and impede all sorts of traffic!  I finally made it into the right lane, just barely, and got across the bridge. Great!  If there is any true justice in the world, though, the owner of that pretty, shiny black car will come back and find that his/her vehicle was towed.  That's not vindictive; I'm being caring and mindful of traffic safety.  It's my solemn and sacred duty as a Knoxville citizen, and I take that very seriously.

Now turn onto Chapman Highway and navigate that insanity. Clutching my handwritten directions, I zip down the highway, checking for landmarks on the list. I say "zip" because you have to keep up with the flow of traffic on Chapman to avoid dying.  Back to those handwritten directions.  Kroger's on the right....check.  Start counting street signs on the left after I see a Ken-Jo Market.  There's Ken-Jo...check.

At this point, let me backtrack to the phone call where my girlfriend and I are writing down these directions, because it's all sorts of fun!

Kim (my girlfriend):  "After you see the Ken-Jo Market at the light, start counting street signs on the left.  You'll turn at a big church after the third street sign on the left - Grace Dei - on the left onto Anderson...."

Me: "Okay, hold up whilst I write all of this down.  Street signs, three of them on the left.....which side of the road is that on?"

Yes, I really did ask that.  It doesn't matter that Kim used the word "left" THREE times...for whatever reason, it didn't compute to my brain. And yes, there was a marked silence on the other end of the phone from Kim.  Then it hit me what I had asked and I proceeded to fall out laughing.  I had tears, it was so hilarious!  What can I say?  I'm not good with directions even when all we're doing is discussing them. And yes, I really do know what side "left" is on. Just not when I'm writing down directions and talking on the phone simultaneously, apparently.

Back to driving down the insanity of Chapman Highway and counting three street signs on the left side of the highway.  Well, here's the thing.  We both forgot that I can't see worth flip.  And of course I didn't have my glasses on.  They're currently in the sweaty, crafty little hands of my resident House Elf and haven't been returned yet.  That's a whole other story, House Elf issues, but I digress.  If you follow my blog, you've read about my House Elf issues before (Mystical Roommates, 2/24/2010, Healing Morning blog).  They are ongoing. But back to this very important re-telling.

Because I am not wearing my glasses, and because it's a four-lane highway, it's kind of challenging to read those street signs until I am almost on top of them.  And you can't slow down on Chapman Highway, just so you know.  That is when bad things happen on that particular highway, like car accidents.  I count the signs, but can't really read the names.  This is where the fabulous invention of cell phones comes into play.  I call Kim.  Tell her where I am and that the big church has either poofed out of existence or I overshot it.

Turns out that no, I haven't driven that far yet. Or so she says.  I'm doubtful and I really think the church poofed momentarily.  Alternately, what possibly happened is that I skipped a line in the handwritten directions and got everything off kilter.  I do that quite often when I'm going somewhere for the first time.  I have no idea why, but it is a common thing that happens.  It's like my brain, or my eyes, or both get blindness with directions and things get all scrambled and wonky on the paper.

Cell phone to the rescue!  I now see the church on the left where it has miraculously poofed back into existence, and I turn into the parking lot because there's not a road like Kim indicated I should see.  Perfect.  This means I'll have to fight my way back across Chapman Highway with a left turn.  Wait, Kim says, I'm in the right place!  That's not a parking lot.  It sort of morphs into her road.  Kind of.  But there's no road sign.  Or lane.  It might be a lane since it's cutting off the main highway; I can't ever remember the rules for what constitutes a street, road or lane.  We'll call it a road.  I follow it and start the dreaded counting again, this time of houses. At least there's not maniacally speeding cars behind me, riding up my booty and blowing their horns in the most obnoxious manner possible.  I count and nope, her road seems to have poofed just like the church did earlier.  As you can see, there's a conspiracy at work here.  I've suspected it all my life, but now that I'm re-telling it and you're here with me, you can be my witness.  SOMEone is moving stuff around anytime I am driving someplace new!  Right?!  You agree with me, I can tell.  And I really appreciate that about you.

I turn around in someone's driveway, doing all of this with one hand because I forgot to put my cell phone on Speaker mode.  I drive back up the road where Kim insists I must have just passed her road without really seeing it.  She's not as savvy as you and I are about the conspiracy that is clearly taking place.  I go up a slight hill and see a big tree with lovely, fluttery limbs and equally hangy-down leaves that are obscuring....her road.  And the sign.  I don't care what you think right now - that road and that sign WERE NOT THERE when I first drove down that hill!  And WHO decided to put a tree right there, anyway?  Where its hangy-down leaves cause all manner of navigation issues.  It needs a haircut, obviously, that tree.  All those long limbs and hangy-down leaves obscuring the suddenly poofed back into existence road sign...well, that's just all kinds of wrong.  And part of the conspiracy. Because that's what...three poofs in less than five minutes?  That, my friends, is's EVIDENCE of a conspiracy.  Of the navigational kind.  Probably kissing cousins to Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  And I daresay both of them are in cahoots with my House Elf.  Same local union hall, I bet.

I turn into that road and Kim is saying she's watching for my car.  Bless her, she has played this game with me before.  She says she's waving and I squint my eyes, sans glasses, and sure enough, there she is.  Thankfully, the conspiracy action hasn't poofed her and her house.  I'm thinking the devious minds behind said conspiracy probably got tuckered out by poofing that big church out of existence and then back into existence, along with the road sign a few minutes ago.  You probably agree with me.  I love how sympatico we are today, don't you?

I arrived, I met her husband, we visited, we played with the puppies.  I was loaded down with a care package of yummy cucumbers, tomatoes and some red potatoes from their garden before I headed home.  And that part?  Heading home. Yeah, that.  It wasn't pretty.

We're in East Tennessee and it's high summer.  That means that we get these unexpected summer storms and I drove right into one.  It was raining so danged hard that visibility was perhaps five feet in front of my car at best.  I was driving maybe 15 mph, but couldn't pull over anywhere because I was still on Chapman Highway where lunacy rules all drivers. I got cut off yet again and had to take James White Parkway.  I realize that those of you who live around the world are clueless about these road/street/highway/interstate names, and I apologize for that.  James White Parkway is a loop that was built to facilitate routing traffic around, rather than through the heart of downtown Knoxville.  And that's great, if that's what your goal is.  Normally, I would say it is, because I'm not a fan of driving through downtown Knoxville. I'm all for routing around downtown and avoiding it, usually. My experiences with moseying jaywalkers and brainless cyclists would be your first clue as to why I don't like driving through downtown Knoxville.

By the way, before any cyclists take umbrage at the brainless comment, I doubt any of YOU would have committed such an act of walking with your bicycle slap out into oncoming traffic without checking for oncoming vehicles.  She isn't one of you, clearly, so you're not allowed to be insulted that I called her brainless.  Back to why going through downtown was necessary when I'm not a fan of that drive.  In this instance, it was the quickest way home.  If I hadn't gotten cut off and forced onto James White.  But I did, so, I snailed my way along the parkway in some of the heaviest rain I've experienced driving through, and that navigation thing reared its ugly head again.  I took the wrong access lane to get back onto the interstate and wound up heading about 20 miles away from Knoxville and the direction of home.  In the pouring rain.  Driving 15 mph.

You're envious, aren't you.  I can feel it.  You just wish you had been with me on this trip!  And so do I, because it would have changed the whole dynamic.  There's this unwritten, immutable Rule of the Universe that states if you're in the car alone and you take the wrong way, YOU. ARE. LOST.  If, however, someone else is in the car with you, then it's an adventure.  See the difference?  Yes, me too.  Alas, I was alone that day, in my car tooling along in the pouring cats and dogs storm at an impressive 15 mph clip.  But it gets better!  One of my clients is out in the area where I was accidentally headed; I visit their business monthly and that meant something spiffy.  I wasn't LOST!!!  I was just going on an extra-circuitous route to get home, albeit a really annoying, lengthy, raining fit to beat the band route.

I did make it home.  You knew that because I'm sitting here writing this recounting of my trip.  NOW do you believe me that I am not good with directions?!  If you don't, then I don't know what else to tell you. Well, actually, I do, because I have hundreds of these stories that would make my point beautifully.  I just think your eyes would start to glaze over after maybe the 50th re-telling.  It will be a lot easier and we'll all be a lot happier if all of you who are reading this, collectively, just accept that I don't have a great sense of direction.  Besides, it could be even more alarming.  My Mom is WAY worse than I am with directions.  No, I'm not kidding.  I TOLD you, it's a genetic thing.

So, what do you think about a support group for this?  I'm thinking it's probably not the best idea and I'll tell you why.  Support groups usually have regular meetings.  At physical LOCATIONS.  Which would require finding these locations.  Yes, you guessed it....more navigation sagas.  Which, in turn, would cause yet another in the long list of misadventures of the nature of this one that I've just shared with you.  I don't think y'all are ready for that, nor is the world at large.  Just imagine how much more poofing out of existence would occur.  Scary, right?! It's not something to be entertained lightly, such imaginings.  Because all y'all matter to me and I love that you visit and read my thoughts, I am going to spare you such a support group and by so doing, keep the fabric of reality intact.  It's my gift to you.