Friday, September 13, 2002

Getting Lost

I’ll be taking a road trip this weekend to visit Cat for her birthday. It’ll be the first time I’ve driven down from Northern California to Southern California. It seems a little weird that I’ve lived in California for years and yet haven’t gone from one end to the other by car yet. Okay, I’ll just admit here that I’ve never really been to the northern tip of Northern California or anywhere in the North West part of the country either. It’s on my list of things to do and see at some point. In any case, it’ll be a trip of note (then again anything outside of a 50 mile radius of San Francisco is a trip of note) and preparations have been taken. I’ve packed, checked out the car, and through the wonders of the Internet, printed out a copy of my route to take with me.

I like knowing where I’m going most of the time. I prefer to travel efficiently, when I know the destination will be a lot more fun than the actual journey. This is different from the time-to-spare travel mode, where there often isn’t a particular destination, just lots of time to waste and taking a road just to see where it goes is a standard procedure.

It makes me think about when I was younger and we’d be sitting around the house and Mom or Dad would tell us to get our shoes on. Inevitably someone would ask where we were going. Sometimes it would be the store or to someone’s house, but every once in a while, the answer would be To Get Lost. So all four kids plus Mom and Dad would pile into the station wagon and we’d be off. We’d drive around for a while and inevitably end up at an ice cream parlor. It was good to get to the ice cream portion of this ritual. I would always be worried that we wouldn’t make it back, because getting lost was a scary thing for me when I was little. I had this naïve notion that my father knew his way home from every ice cream shop, so that all he had to do was find one and then we’d be able to get back home.

Even when I was older and could drive myself, I would worry that I’d run out of gas and get stuck some place or be late for something important. So getting lost still retained that element of fear. I’ve got a pretty good sense of direction. I know how many turns I can make before I lose my ability to backtrack to some place familiar. Maps of all shapes and sorts are a source of comfort and security for me.

I still remember my first big solo road-trip adventure. It was Columbus Day Weekend and my parents were away on vacation. I was living at home that semester and going to a local college and my brother Bill was a senior in high school. My friend Karin invited me down to visit her at GWU, where we met our freshman year. I was bored and looking for adventure, so I started making plans. I drove our family station wagon down from New York to Washington, DC. I don’t remember getting lost or making a wrong turn anywhere. I do remember driving around and realizing how insanely difficult it was finding parking in DC. But it was a fun and tiring weekend.

I’ve taken dozens of road trips since then. Most of them were uneventful, nothing important or expensive broke on the car, no one was hurt and no one was lost along the way. A few years back I was taking a walk with my Mom and we somehow got onto the subject of getting lost. I asked her where we were going those times we would ‘get lost’. As it turns out I come by my fear of getting lost naturally. Whenever she needed to go some place she’d never been before, she would ask Dad to do a dry run with her the night before. We were too young to leave home alone, so we’d get dragged along. And if you’ve ever spent any time with a child under the age of 8, you learn ways to reduce the number of questions you have to answer. Getting lost was the best way to avoid the barrage of questions we would have asked if the destination was known. We laughed as I shared my memories of getting lost.

Tell me about your memories of getting lost.

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