Reward For The Geographically Challenged (May 1998)

I have a really rotten sense of direction, bordering on a mental disorder. While I can read a map very well, and can follow written directions to get from one place to another, places around town can throw me for a loop. I canít seem to remember where exactly places are. I know that two streets will intersect, but is the place Iím looking for a left or right turn? Even places Iíve been before ó lots of times ó can be difficult for me to find. Finding the shortest route from one place to another is the worst, as I would much prefer to go home and start over again from there.

If I know Iím unsure where something is located, I get out the map and look. Then I write down the directions, and I do just fine. Writing directions to a restaurant you were at last week, or to a store you were at three days ago, however, is a little tedious, so sometimes I just wing it.

In my mind's eye I see where I am, and can form a mental picture of the place Iím going, but everything in between is like a television tuned to a station it doesnít get. Snow and static. I have no mental map. Nothing. Always optimistic that the picture will tune in en route, I put the car in drive and aim for the general area I think Iím supposed to go. Iím so used to this absence of a mental road map, that I donít much mind anymore. Itís no longer frightening, just frustrating. It may take me a while to get some place, but I eventually do, and usually leave enough extra time so that Iím rarely ever late. I just drive around until I bump into wherever Iím going.

Last week I was out running an errand and felt an urge for an Arbyís roast beef sandwich before I went back to the office. I knew there was an Arbyís across from a traffic light, and somewhere on Miller Road. Brimming with confidence, I just drove up Miller Road one way, didnít see it, and turned around and went the other way for a while. After two U-turns, I wasnít getting any closer. I was wondering if it was on some other road entirely (this happens, too) and was beginning to get the feeling that all the other cars were staring at me, so I pulled into a shopping center so they'd think I knew where I was going.

Over in the back was an antique mall that I had seen advertised but never visited. Since fate had brought me here, I went in. There on the floor was a rounded wooden case with a little black sewing machine inside. It was a Singer, electric, with a knee stick to make it go. The price tag was marked down from $65 to $35. Now, I may be geographically challenged, but I am no idiot. I practically dove head first on the machine to shield it from the prying eyes of anyone else who had half a brain.

There had to be something wrong here. I knew I was hungry, but thought it was thirst, not hunger that precipitated mirages. It was indeed a very old machine, and in pretty good condition. I even made the clerk plug it in up at the cash register to see if it worked. It did. The light went on, and thread as old as the machine went up and down in the take-up lever. It even sounded good. I didnít have any cloth with me, and opted not to take off my pants and run them under the presser foot only because we were standing at the picture window at the time. I gave the clerk my money and carried the machine back to the car cradled tightly in my arms.

Immediately afterwards I drove straight to Arbyís and found it without error. I guess the adrenaline in my system from having found this unbelievable treasure was like someone smacking the side of my internal television set. All of a sudden the picture of how to get from where I was to where I wanted to go came into crystal clear focus.

(c) 1998 by Ami Simms.)