Wherever you go, there you are


I managed to get lost today.

Without moving at all.

I had an errand to run, involving a store I had never previously visited. So, I looked the location up online before leaving the house. Those of you that use GPS apps and occasionally check out things like a search engine’s map feature will likely understand immediately what I mean when I say that north isn’t always north.

The general idea behind that compass not pointing the right way concept is that your position on a map, or the way it depicts you traveling, or any number of other assorted details, don’t always make perfect sense. And more specifically than the generic joke of the direction north, the reality is that what is directly ahead of you in real life is not always directly ahead of you on the GPS.

For some reason, I had it in my head that when I turned onto the street of my final destination the store would be on the left. It wasn’t. It was on the right. No harm though, as I spotted the sign and pulled into a parking space.

Where it became funny was about ten minutes later when I got back in my car. The direction home would have been a left onto the road. I went right. I had slid immediately back into the way I had originally thought I would be approaching and not the way I did approach. Turned the wrong way to begin the drive home, and fortunately the GPS recalculated and I listened.

There really isn’t anything mind-boggling here. Heck, I find myself getting lost in the kitchen these days. A lot. I mean, probably enough that I should mention it to my doctor a lot. (No. Not really. But I have been working on a cutting board in the kitchen, gone to the fridge to grab something I needed, and suddenly realized I was in a third spot getting something else entirely and having never managed to stop at the fridge.)

So… lost at someplace brand new and fifteen miles from the house? Not exactly hard to believe.

But it is funny how we position ourselves at times. We can look things up in street views of maps or on business web sites. Our GPS units and apps tell us that our destination is up ahead and direct us to the right or the left. The end result is that while we can quickly find out exactly where we need to be, and have the materials at our fingertips to get us there, but more and more often I find myself losing track of all the steps in between.

You know those moments where people get tossed in the car, and they’ve been blindfolded or such so they can’t see where they’re going? There are literally moments now where I wonder if the blindfold is even necessary. Because in many cases, I do believe that if the person doesn’t know the address or business name or whatever to enter into the app, there is a really good chance they would never be able to find that spot again anyway.

When I was a kid, getting tossed around the back of our station wagon, I could be delightfully distracted during a trip. Then, at any point, could look out the windows and pretty much immediately recognize where we were and how much further we had to go.

Grandparents? Church? The park? Didn’t matter what the destination was, I would recognize the route from the scenes around me. Now, if you mention that blue house we pass on the way to pick up pizza… well… there isn’t a chance in heck I have any idea what house you are talking about. None at all.

There’s a joke about small town living. It’s based on the idea that everyone living in the community knows everyone else and all of the landmarks. And as a result, directions like this work:

Head out of this lot like you’re going to the Smith house. When you reach the McGillicuddy barn, turn. Continue down that road a piece, and you’ll spot it about a mile after where the Thompson bridge was before the fire.

(Heck, in most small towns, skip everything else and just tell them to go a mile past the Thompson bridge.)

These days, it’s more of a magic trick. Enter the destination into the GPS, click your heels together three times, spin in a circle and then put the car back into park because you’ve arrived.

Most of the time, it all works out. I make it to the store. I make it back home. But I have to say, I do miss the comfort and familiarity of the McGillicuddy barn.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com