Sunday, May 5, 2013

Wrong Way

You guys? Did I ever tell you about the time I inadvertently drove to Illinois? I know many of you may have heard this exciting tale, but I felt the urge to retell it today, with the benefit of years of hindsight.

So, I was visiting my sister Padrin in Decorah, IOWA and was driving back to school in Iowa City, IOWA. This was before GPS. Before smartphones. And before I could read, apparently. I was driving alone, singing to N'Sync or something, thinking about my own stuff. Sources have told me that there was a sign directing me to take a right to stay on the correct road, but no such sign exists in my memory.

Yeah, so I did NOT take a right to stay on the correct road. I was in college and wasn't too good with the whole "paying attention" thing yet. I just drove on, without a care in the world, happy to be driving around with the windows down and good music on.

The trip back from Decorah was taking much longer than I had remembered it taking on the way up there. (I must have made GREAT time on the way here!) There were also a lot more cliffs and rock formations than the farms I thought I had seen on the to Decorah. (Hmm, never noticed that.) I just kept going. Driving further and further away from home base. I crossed a huge bridge that I definitely didn't remember (that's weird) and got a little peek of the Mississippi River, which I also didn't remember. (Maybe it's somehow a one-way bridge?!) On the other side of the bridge, there was a sign that said "Welcome to Illinois". Okay, now I was CERTAIN I wasn't going the right way.

Still, I kept going about 5 minutes out of sheer panic, hoping to somehow cross back into Iowa. I did not. I stopped at a gas station and was BAWLING. I tore in the run-down station and pleaded "OMG, I have no idea where I am! Am I in Iowa anymore?! Is this Illinois?!"

Luckily, no one called the police on the lost girl who was maybe a crackhead. Instead, they showed me a map on the wall (which they refused to let me take with me - rude) and told me how to get back to the right road, which I had left 2 hours earlier. Whoops. The attendant loaned me a couple quarters for me to call my work on the payphone. I should have played it cool, but I said "I'M GOING TO BE LATE TO WORK TONIGHT BECAUSE I WAS DRIVING HOME FROM DECORAH BUT AM NOW IN ILLINOIS! I HAVE NO IDEA WHEN I'LL GET BACK. I DON'T KNOW WHAT HAPPENED OR WHERE I AM."

I eventually made it back to school in one piece. I had learned a great lesson...never drive anywhere ever again. But in terms of the bigger picture, I learned that I frequently take a different/wrong road than I should and what others take. It's just who I am. I will go 2 hours out of my way without realizing it because at the end of the day, I get where I need to be and I have a great story to tell.

But people made a LOT of fun of me after that whole Iowa/Illinois mess. There were funny jokes, mean comments and a lot of road atlases given to me as gifts. But it just kind of sucked because now people figure that I am ALWAYS wrong about directions (and fine, I am a lot of the time) but they have branded me as the girl who drove to the wrong state and never let me forget it.

Anyway, so a bunch of years ago, I was wrong about something. And it still haunts me. I may not be able to find my way out of a paper bag, but it doesn't matter. I've got GPS now. Take THAT, important life skills.

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