Monday, September 10, 2012

You Can't Miss It

Recently I've been getting lost a lot.  I don't have GPS in my car nor do I want it.  And I do have a good supply of road maps.  But it's not that kind of lost.  I get lost when I ask people for directions.  Their answer always goes something like this.  "Oh drive through the next two traffic lights, make a left, and go another block or so.  You can't miss it."  Or turn in just past the mall.  Or it's on the corner.  Just down the street.  You see where that sign is illumined, just keep going.  And this advice always ends with the invariable, "You can't miss it." 

But the truth is you can.  You can miss it for a number of reasons.  For starters natives who know where they're going will often leave off a little detail or two. Or they'll make a mistake.  They'll tell you to turn right when in fact it's left.  They'll say it's just down the road when it's really five miles.

Recently in LA I missed my exit on the freeway.  I was heading to LAX so time was rather precious and I had to return a rental car, etc.  So I stopped at a gas station where the attendant told me to go back to where I'd been, cross the highway, then do a bunch of other stuff.  Or, he added, I could just drive straight through three traffic lights and make a right.  Except it was a left.  And it was three traffic lights if I included the one right outside his station. 

Or in Upstate New York, trying to get a certain place in the Catskills, we were given quite elaborate directions that we followed until we figured out that we had already passed the place where we were going - twice.

I find this kind of fascinating.  The truth about anything we do is that the first time we do it, it's very hard.  So the first time you try to find a place, it isn't easy, but then, once you've found it, you'll always know how to get there.

This happened while visiting my friend, Jackie, at her mother's house on the lake.  Once I got there, I understood where I'd been going all along, but Jackie, because she's been going there all her life, couldn't really tell me how to get there.

Recently Larry and I were lost in the Berkshires.  So we stopped to buy a map at a truck stop and wound up asking a guy for help.  He was a handsome young man with a red beard and bright blue eyes.  Cement coated his shoes.  "It's easy," he said, "You just go out here and go back the way you came, past the high school, make a right and keep going until Max's gas station.  You might stop at Max's cuz he carries better maps than you'll find here.  Anyway at Max's there's a shortcut if you take the right fork and keep going until you're almost at the airport, just after the train tracks..."  I'd stopped listening about two turns ago.  Anyway I knew where this was going.  "Just keep going straight.  You can't miss it."  But we did. 

So the next time someone tells you can't miss it, think twice.  Then think again.  It's not that they're being mean or that there's some sadistic pleasure in all of this.  They can't miss it because they know where it is.  But you can always miss it.  And you probably will.  Until you've been there, that is.

1 comment:

  1. Very true! In fact, I really don't know the way until I've driven (or walked) there myself. I could be a passenger on the route 20 times, and still not know how to get there. :-)