I come from a mixed marriage. My mother had unerring directional instincts. Plop her down in the middle of nowhere and she could find her way out. This was a very good thing since she was a botanist and was always out looking for elusive wild flowers. (I was a complete embarrassment to her since on her wildflower trips with her colleagues or students I only wanted to look for frogs and frog eggs). On the other hand, my father only knew two directions, up and down. Oh, and left and right, so I guess he really did know the four major directions. His directions went, “Go out of town, turn right at Dewy Dean’s house (Dewy hadn’t lived there in years). Go down the road and turn right where the mules are. Then keep going until you get to the road with the cattle guard and turn into it. If you hit the slough bridge, you went too far.” Guess who I take after. I may look like I know where I am going, but in reality, it’s all show no substance.
I blame it all on grade school. There was always a big map of the United States on the classroom walls and west was to my left, east on my right. If I looked up that was north (therefore I always face north) and south was down. (The only way I can remember that California is on the west coast is California is on the left side of the map and “Go west young man, go west” refers to going to California. New York is on the east coast because it is opposite of California.) Nort actually told me when I was helping him on the car the other day, “no, no, a little more west.” I must say, we both had a good laugh over that one.
I was talking to my sister a few weeks ago when we were taking The Precious Child to see Nort’s mom and meet up with Amanda. We have a certain route to Arkansas and as we were approaching our turn off, the whole lane and turn off was blocked for construction. I said something to Laura about how were we going to get to Arkansas. She said, well you do know the way. And then laughed because she assumed we would get lost even though we had been traveling this route for eleven years now. Yes, I have that kind of history.
I have “skunk paths” that I always follow which is why not being able to get off on the right exit is a problem. Skunk paths you say? A little known fact about skunks is that they are very nearsighted and have developed this sense that they follow a certain path on their nightly excursions. This is one reason they get squashed so much. If an object is put in their path, the poor little skunk will probably run into it. Once. Then the next time they run their path, they will make a detour around the obstacle and then resume the regular path. We had a pet skunk, Daisy, and she would go tearing around the house in her little routine. We would put something, usually a tissue box because we didn’t want to hurt her, in her path and pow! Smack dab into it. Then on her next trip she would make the cutest little detour around the box and keep on trucking. Hence, skunk paths.
I would like to say I only have one good story about getting lost, but in actuality, there are so many I will just have to pick the best ones. There was the time I headed to Tyler, Texas and ended up in Dallas. Or the time Bambi (she is as bad as me) and I attempted to get back to Fort Smith from somewhere in Oklahoma and ended up taking an extra two hours (but we did get to see a fence with cow skulls on each post and a tree full of cowboy boots). And then there is the time I went to Jana’s (a place I had been many, many times) and managed to get lost in the fields, in the dark, in the rain and had to get a sharecrop family to call Gary (way before cell phones) to come find me.
But the one I’m most famous for is a shopping trip to Tulsa. A friend and I decided to go to Tulsa to do some Christmas shopping. Now, I have been to Tulsa many times and it is pretty darn near impossible to not get there from Fort Smith, Arkansas. So one Saturday morning we set out. Robin and I were really compatible and just talked and talked and laughed and laughed. We made it through Fort Smith. We made it past numerous little towns. We were on the Interstate, how could we miss. Time passed and miles flew by. Soon we started seeing evidence that we were getting near a major Oklahoma city. Tell tale signs such as billboards touting restaurants and and various stores dotted the roadway. “Oh,” Robin said. “We have that restaurant in Oklahoma City (she used to live there), I loved it.” Hmmmmm, this did not look familiar. Then we went past Tinker Air Force Base.
Now, when I was a girl, we lived in Oklahoma City and I remembered Tinker. It was just outside of Oklahoma City. It was not near Tulsa. We were in Oklahoma City. It would not have been so bad if she had been driving and was just following a familiar path, but nooooooo. I was driving. Somehow I had completely missed the turnpike turnoff. I insist there was road construction that had it blocked but I’m pretty sure there was no such thing. Well by golly, we were going to shop in Tulsa! So after lunch at one of Robin’s favorite places, we drove the additional two hours to Tulsa. We had a great time.
Nort insists that he NEVER got lost and NEVER had to turn around and backtrack to get to the correct exit/turn. I have ruined him. It is now a regular occurrence when we travel together. In fact, I am infectious. We were on a charter bus to go see the Lady Eagles play in Memphis. It was a rollicking good time. We were with friends and new friends and going to see a good ball game. All was well until we got to Memphis. For those who don’t know, Memphis is a really big city, especially if you are from a smallish city. The bus driver had never driven in Memphis, something we didn’t know until we hit the city limits. “Where are we going,” he asked our leader. She stared at him. Uh, this was unexpected. Fortunately one of the fans knew and gave directions. Except, things had changed over the years and yep, we were lost.
So we saw a friendly police officer who gave excellent directions to the college. Then we couldn’t find the gym where the game was being held. Finally we saw a student who very nicely hopped on the bus to lead us to the gym after hearing our story. Sure enough, there was the gym, the student got off and continued on her way. We unloaded, still excited even though we knew the game had started. And, since the game had started, the doors were closed and no one was outside to tell us how to get in. We fanned out looking for an entrance. Finally someone found an open door. Yea! We all rushed in. We could hear the crowd, we could hear the announcer, we saw only classrooms and trophy cases. Still lost. We followed the noise until we made it to the game. Just as the half-time buzzer went off. Nort looked at me with a grin and said, “You are contagious. You manged to get a whole bus lost!”