Sunday, November 18, 2007

Miss Direction

I have this theory that the writer gene is incompatible with a sense of direction. This is based on a totally unscientific study in which my writer friend Marsha and I went out to dinner in Saratoga Springs, NY, during which we each had a glass of wine and fabulous conversation. It was dark by the time we went back out to the car. Neither of us had any idea which way to turn out of the parking lot. I proposed we sleep in the car until either the sun rose or we got arrested for vagrancy by a nice policeman who would tell us how to get back to the bed and breakfast.

Now recently, I’ve been doing a lot of school and library visits in unfamiliar places. Mapquest is my friend, but it has its limitations. Like if you really mess up you’re on your own.

Then I rode with my friend Joann to book club. I was appointed navigator and arrived with my usual fistful of Mapquest printouts. But it turned out my services were totally unnecessary. Joann has a new Chrysler Pacifica, which sails the highways like a true oceangoing vessel. It has all kinds of Jetson features including a camera in the back so you can see when you’re backing up. But the best part was the GPS unit.

“Turn left in ¼ mile,” a cool, feminine voice said as we pulled out of the Giant Eagle parking lot. And “Keep to the right to enter freeway in ½ mile.” Whoa, I thought, peering around. How does she know where we are? But I believe in magic, since lots of things are magic to me, like the entire Best Buy catalog.

I decided to call her Patsy (Pacifica, Patsy, get it?) And all the way there, Patsy coached us through every turn. It was like riding with my dad, without the swearing. I liked how she gave us plenty of notice that we had to get over to exit.

Once, despite her best efforts and the Mapquests in my hand, we made a wrong turn. Patsy didn’t lose her cool, oh, no. Not like Some People. Calculating, Patsy said, and then, “Proceed 3 miles, then turn left.”

Patsy had never failed Joann, though a few times, out of desperation, she’d suggested an illegal U-turn. Home is permanently entered into Patsy’s system. And Patsy always talks her home. (Home is the place where, if you can find it, they have to take you in.)

I’ll go anywhere, if I know I can get back home. Gotta get me one of those.

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