I suffer from a condition that my family politely refers to as “directional impairment.” Impolitely, it’s probably a form of dyslexia. It’s definitely hereditary. The G.P. has it even worse than I do. The Rev finds our inability to find due north (or, technically, left) hilarious, and helpfully teases us unmercifully. Yesterday, when I briefly got lost out on the dog jog (on a route we have traveled daily for the past two years), I did some quick calculating and realized that I’ve been lost approximately 80% of my adult life. I’ve been lost so often that I now have degrees of lost-ness, sort-of like the way Eskimos have words for snow.
Most of the time, the situation isn’t dire. Because I don’t know where things are located in any conventional sense, I navigate by landmarks (on the dog jog it’s canine points of interest like Rich Man’s Alley, the Pee Pee Tree and that place we saw the cat that one time). Once I recognize something, I can usually deduce how to get home from there. Technology has been great, too. Now that there’s a magical lady who lives in my phone and knows where everything on planet Earth is located, I can get anywhere in almost a reasonable amount of time.
Several years ago, my uncle died suddenly. The funeral took place in Colorado, and the G.P. decided to forego the expense of buying plane tickets for the Rev, myself and my brother, Josh. In lieu of flying, we drove from Corpus to Longmont in Dad’s Mercury Marquis. My brother tried to name it the “Fun Bus.” I tried for “Titanic,” but it didn’t fly. Ultimately, and for obvious reasons due to four upset adult digestive systems being imprisoned for days in what felt like a shoe box, we just went with “Fart Car.”
As you can imagine, a family road trip with children in their 30’s wasn’t going to be a laugh riot. My brother, being tall and a jerk, got shotgun and the Rev and I were stuck in the back. My initial plan was to chug Nyquil and try to sleep through the whole thing, like a decent human being, but Mom caught me and confiscated the bottle before I could down enough to drown out the family. She thought that deliberately overdosing on cold medicine would somehow be worse than spending 40 hours in a car, awake, with all the Bair Primes. Parents just don’t understand.
Due to innumerable past family trips wherein we wound up lost in places like the only swamp in Nebraska, EVERYBODY brought their own on-board navigational system. Dad had his cherished Oracle (which also told him his miles per gallon), Josh (a tech junkie) bought a system that had accuracy up to .1 meters and probably also flew a drone, I had my phone (with poor accuracy but excellent Tetris) and Mom had her innate sense of direction combined with a determined cheerfulness so brutally annoying that Pollyanna would be unable to resist slapping off the smug.
Of course, even with all the assistance, we got lost within about six hours because everybody’s GPS had different ideas about getting to Colorado. The G.P. overrode our strident objections and decided to “split the difference.” This caused us to wind up on a farm road in the middle of nowhere. Even if you get lost a lot, seeing a dust devil blow menacingly over the ruts you’re bumping down (when you’re pretty sure you should be on a highway) is disheartening. That’s about when The Fight started.
I was automatically out because we were so far removed from civilization (we’re talking no power lines, no telephone poles, ears straining for the penultimate banjo music rural) my cell phone wasn’t at all functional. This also meant no calling for help. I wasn’t about to let that stop me from joining the fray, however. When a good Bair fight breaks out, you get in there and scrap, otherwise you get branded as a wussy and no one listens to you at all, ever, on any topic until you get a few licks in during the next Mega Battle. You could have a PhD in astrophysics, and be trying to answer an astrophysics question that only an astrophysicist could really adequately answer, but if you refused to fight in the last Family Scramble, you’d get told to hush while the G.P. (who does not hold a PhD in astrophysics) took over. We are a contentious bunch.
An old boyfriend of mine once pointed out that my family’s default volume is “yelling.” The Fight was no exception. It started with the G.P. hollering at all of us because we were lost, despite the fact that he was definitely the one who drove us there. Then Josh started bellowing about having a better GPS and how we should have just listened to him in the first place. Then I started screaming about “why in the hell would you take a “shortcut” when you don’t know where we are or where we’re going? What part of “dirt road” didn’t seem wrong to you immediately? Better GPS is stupid. When is .1 meter going to be a valuable accuracy? We’re looking for a whole, giant city literally called LONG MOUNTAIN, not buried treasure. Also, GIVE ME THE NYQUIL, MOTHER!” The Rev then chimed in, cheerfully channeling Admiral Peary, “Well, we’re heading North. Just keep going and eventually we’ll get there.” I’m pretty sure that my mother is unaware of just how much north there is in the world, and that if you miss your north place, you can’t just loop back around the world and catch it on the next pass. This released another barrage of screeching, but no Nyquil. The whole argument was punctuated by the G.P. interrupting everyone to tell us that he was, “Getting 32 miles to the gallon (joy voice)….oops, now 12 (despair voice)” because even though we were more lost than Columbus, it’s important to always know how much you’re spending on gas.
Eventually, we found a highway. Not the correct highway, of course, but it was a start. I figured out exactly how long the charge on my laptop lasted (5 hours and 14 minutes), and made several ill-fated attempts to snatch the Nyquil. We finally go to Colorado, and (after a few minor missteps involving Denver), to Longmont. We weren’t even very late to the wake.