Lost and Found

I’ve always prided myself on having a reasonably good sense of direction. Complete inability to navigate a corn maze notwithstanding, of course, and totally ignoring the fact that the BFF and I have never gone on an adventure without becoming hopelessly lost. That element usually just adds to our fun, so I am going to discount that from my overall navigation skills.
Many years ago, when I was a starving editor working in the vastly underpaid publishing industry, I supplemented my income by working for a catering company on the weekends. This was pre-GPS, so with my trusty, battered Thomas guide, I would drive to a different, unfamiliar locale each week, consistently arriving on time and looking quite natty in my tuxedo top, cummerbund and bow tie. I rarely, if ever, got lost on these occasions, perhaps motivated by my desperate need for extra funds, potential tips, and leftover rumaki.
This week, I had one of those super important “appointments” in a city I had never been to, located about 40 miles from my home. My appointment was at 10:30, and I had already planned on leaving my house by 9:00 to make sure I was there with time to spare. But the night before a good friend messaged me and cautioned that I should expect heavy traffic. Her husband had made a trip to LAX that day, which was about halfway to my destination, and it had taken him 80 minutes. Armed with that knowledge, and not willing to take any chance of being late, I decided to leave at 8:30.
As these things go, traffic was flowing smoothly, and I arrived at my destination before 9:30. I didn’t want to just linger in the parking lot, so I decided to leave and find a Starbucks or McDonalds, to get a cup of tea and work on assuming a calm, confident persona. In my neighborhood, I can find a coffee shop, donut store or fast food joint by driving around any corner, so I innocently assumed this wouldn’t be a problem. And just as innocently, and foolishly, I assumed I would have no problem retracing my path back to the appointment.
Well, that didn’t happen. Again, I was totally unfamiliar with the area, and didn’t really get that it was mostly industrial. As I drove down streets, thinking I was making a square around my original location, I didn’t see any place that looked like it would serve as a quiet respite. And, as I drove on, I began to get concerned that I had left my square, because after several turns, I saw a sign indicating I was in a different city!
I pulled into a small strip lot and ran into the only business that was open, which appeared to be a Vietnamese restaurant. Not so surprisingly, the lady behind the counter didn’t understand my plea for directions, and while she seemed sympathetic, she just shook her head and smiled at me. I thanked her anyway, and ran back to my car. It was now 10:00.
I drove on, and it seemed to me, on. Again I pulled into another small strip mall. Still no Starbucks in this unknown city! No open businesses at all. In fact, if anyone is looking for a business opportunity, message me, because I see a real community need there. Finally, I screeched into a car rental lot. I ran, panting, up to a representative and basically threw myself on his mercy, explaining that I was desperately lost and in serious trouble of missing a crucial “appointment.”
This sweet man tried to analyze the MapQuest directions I had clutched in my sweaty hands as the clock ticked away. He couldn’t figure out how I had become so turned around, so he got on his computer and reset the directions from where we were. He set it to print, and the printer jammed. I honestly thought I was going to lose it, but he finally was able to hand me my new instructions. Distance, 5 miles. Estimated time, 11 minutes. It was 10:15. I thanked him profusely and ran like hell to my car as he shouted “good luck.”
I would not be exaggerating to say I broke several speed and traffic laws that morning. I pulled back into the company parking lot at 10:29. I wanted to cry, or throw up, but there was no time for such activities. So, I took a very deep breath, and calmly, and confidently, walked into the HR office. And there I waited for 15 minutes.
The end, for now

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