Monday, February 25, 2013

Sense of Direction Challenged? Getting Lost with or without GPS

Getting from Point 9 to Point B?  Why Point 9?  I'm Lost Already 

I'm in the camp of the eternally lost. If having mental maps is a state of mind, for me that just means one more state to get lost in. My maps seem constructed from DNA that hasn't been updated since a couple of Cro-Magnons ran from predators and managed not to fall into a tar pit.  My maps have the staying power of an Etch-a-Sketch.

Getting lost is expected.   My checklist of dunderhead moves include: getting lost on numbered streets; mistaking one avenue for another; and, missing San Diego entirely on a straight southern shot from LA and winding up at the Mexican border. Sherman McCoy in "The Bonfires of the Vanities" has nothing on me; I've left rubber in parts of towns that I never ever EVER should have been in. I regularly go to the wrong car, street, house, city, airport, and, once, country. That last one may be some kind of record. It also provided a unique ethical dilemma.

Paris. I'm with my French girlfriend before I head for a business meeting in Barcelona. I know her, and know her sense of direction is 12 levels below common sense. So when she puts me on the metro to the airport, I'm sure - and soon confirm - that it's the wrong train. No problem. When you get lost as a matter of course you learn to leave spare time. I switch trains and get to DeGaulle airport an hour before my flight. Perfect. Or would be - except I'm at the wrong airport.

I've exhausted my spare time. The clock is ticking. I hop into a taxi, shout "Orly airport. Vite!" and we're off. Zipping on the highway, half-way there I can tell I'll make it with, oh, at least 10 seconds to spare! Yikes, but phew! To save time I get my wallet out, and realize I'm broke. I gave all my money to my girlfriend. I didn't need money. I'm being met by a delegation in Spain.

Now, it should be noted that the French have a reputation for being unfriendly, particularly the waiters and cab drivers.   Understandable since they don't get tips. "Uh-oh" is the same in French as in English.

Time to choose. Say nothing, get to Orly then dash out and run like mad. Or, confess and pray to the travel gods my driver doesn't deposit me in the middle of nowhere (a place I've been many times!)

I opt for honesty. I tell the driver, "Je n'ai pas any money." He glares. I cringe. He declares, "Pas probleme," and floors it. I could kiss him. But really don't want to be left in the middle of the highway.

We make it to Orly. My flight to Spain leaves in minutes.   I dash thru the Iberian Airlines counter trailed by their laughter at my plight, race down the corridor - suffering the airport rule that the less time you have the further your departure gate is - and hurl myself through the closing door and onto the plane's floor. I made it!!!

And that's how I got to Rome, Italy.


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