Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Lost and Loving It: The Benefits of Never Knowing Where You Are or Where You're Going

I have a sordid relationship with any mode of transportation, mostly because I don't know how to use them. I'd like to attribute this to a wildly active imagination--a mind's eye that sees beauty and potential in all things, if you will. That would be nice, but the reality is that I have a canine ability at best to know where I am at any given time. I will save a little face by blaming my dad for passing down his own lack of awareness to me. I have evidence.


Julebruary 50billionth,

One sunny afternoon, my dad took his hybrid out for a little spin. He plugged a random address into his GPS and promptly followed the gentle commands of a bodiless lady. To his credit, he did followed her instructions very well. But ironically, therein lay his downfall. As he cruised along on a highway, the GPS lady abruptly said, "TURN LEFT, NOW," and my dad veered calmly at 50mph into an exit that was barricaded by a line of traffic cones and flanked by two police officers. As he sailed between a space wide enough, the officers waved their arms angrily, mouths contorting into various curses. To which my dad waved merrily back. "What emphatic policemen," I imagine he thought. It wasn't until seconds later that he realized what he had done, and was amazed at how blindly he obeyed the bossy lady in the direction-box.

"I would have driven right off a cliff," he said to me.

"Some would say you already have," I responded, sipping a cappuccino.

"What was that?"


I somehow inherited this navigational dumbassery from him, I just know it. But, whereas he is too obedient with directions, I am inexplicably hesitant to believe them. For some reason, the highlighted route on the screen disorients me and I never turn at the right moment. Gallons of gas have been wasted from having to back-track to the correct turns. It's as if I have to pass the turn, size it up through the window, and turn around for a second or third try if the roads are particularly tricky.

Dehh, take a lefts, and go up.
Even New York, a city where the streets have not curves, but right angles; not idiotic street names, but are numbered, it's anyone's guess as to whether I'll get where I'm going. Often the case is that I have to take a tour of the surrounding five blocks before I get there. Even with restaurants (which seems always to have stupidly small signage. I mean, wtf New York? Oh look at us, our signs are smaller than an index card and are written in Burmese. Well excuse the shit out of me for not having binoculars and the eyesight of an Afghan Hound.

What the fuck was I talking about? Oh, yes, inner navigation. I have none! No internal compass here. Nope. I've come to accept it as part of my personality. I've learned that if I just accept it as a piece of me, it's less infuriating for myself and those who are dumb enough to be my friends. It's common knowledge among my compadres that I need a good half-hour buffer to make up for the several wrong turns. All I need is a half hour, people. So before you invite me to your dinner party at the leboobydoop bistro and wine bar do the math, because I'm terrible at that, too.

Once we clueless wanderers have accepted this part of ourselves, we can enjoy the perks of getting lost.

Never knowing where I am means I don't have to buy a gym membership. Being lost means being in motion. One man's wrong turn, is another man-child's impromptu jog around the block. For sprint training, I like to lose track of my subway stops, so that when I glance up and realize I'm supposed to exit the train and the doors are closing, I lurch forward off my seat into a full areal somersault and slam into the window, missing the actual door by about seven feet. By the time I brush the dirt off my shoulders, fix my bangs, and get out at the next stop, my heart rate is elevated like a gay little humming bird. Never mind that the stress might be forming ulcers in my stomach. I've kept my figure without having to change into workout clothes in my office bathroom, which I think is something that would depress me beyond help.

Getting lost means you can interact with strangers! Once, after I had ridden a subway for fifteen minutes in the wrong direction, I flailed my way off at the following stop and sprinted to the station exit. As I reached the top of a stairway, I decided it was a good time to stretch my arms backwards in an attempt to crack my upper spine. I clasped my hands behind me and jutted them outward, making contact with the mouth of the woman directly behind me. I felt teeth and, I think, a little tongue. I'm not sure why her mouth was open at that time. She might have been at the awkward start to a sentence, but I think she saw my fingers swoop into her face and wanted a little nibble. Weirdo.

EXHIBIT C (is for cookie)
Getting lost is actually a good way to see the world. Or, in my case, the horrid underbelly of the city's transit system. One instance in particular has remains scorched into the plain of my memory.

It was gay pride weekend in New York (already a bad sign), and some close friends and I had convened to do whatever it is people do for gay pride. From what I gathered, it involves running from one end of Manhattan to the other in hopes of actually seeing a parade, which is fucking impossible. As it was summer time, running was especially extraneous. At one point, we gave up and wandered sweatily into an Urban Outfitters to do some shopping. When we reemerged onto the street, trendy cloth-bound shopping bags in hand, we couldn't agree on where to go.

"This way," said Chree.

"No this way!" said her sister, Shmackie.

"No that way," said Claude, who was visiting from L.A. and had no business informing anyone what to do.

"Oh let's just try this way!" Screamed Quincy, who was from Boston and drove cars, and was therefore even more useless than Claude.

It was clear there was dissent among the crew as to how we were going to get away from the Urban Outfitters entrance, so I did what do best during any manner of discussion, and looked up at some clouds. As I snapped back into reality, I saw that I was following everyone down a flight of stairs to the subway. I obviously didn't catch the name of where we decided to go, so I have no idea if we made it there successfully. What I do remember (vividly) is the pained face of woman/human bull-dog, whom I refer to as Carol. Carol, my friends, had what I call, a case of the oopsie poopsies.

At first, she appeared to us as a sound from below--a wailing of sorts you might hear from a camel giving birth to a Range Rover.

"What is that?" Chree asked, glancing fearfully to the another staircase, from whence the moaning sounded.

"A dying something," Shmackie said. "Definitely something on its way out." We faltered in our path onward, drawn toward the voice like a crowd to a car accident.

Next, we heard another voice, this one coming from a different woman whose tone suggested she was not happy. I decided to call her Persnippity. As Persnippity emerged from the secondary staircase, she looked over her shoulder, looked back down to her feet and shook her head. We stepped out of the way, trying to look inconspicuous.

"Come on!" Persnippity snapped.

"HNNnnnNNN," Carol moaned back. For an instant, I thought Carol might have been mentally handicapped, on account of her apparent inability to articulate complete sentences or words. This made me feel awful. Here we all were, waiting to witness some kind of spectacle of a dying creature, who turns out to have special needs. What kind of person had I become? What kind of asshole rubbernecks at someone else's handicap? We started to walk on as Carol finally emerged. Immediately, it was clear she was not mentally handicapped, she was just in pain.

An after-shock of guilt bitch-slapped me across the face for now having realized that I assumed Carol was mentally handicapped merely because she could only communicate with guttural noises. I was batting zero on the sensitivity front. That twinge of guilt did not last long however, because Carol's source of pain became horribly clear.

 Carol struggled past the top step and grabbed hold of the wall for support. Her sweaty face was the color of a newborn plum and her breathing sounded like great dane trying to choke itself. Slowly but with desperate determination, she lumbered to a white piling and started to loosen her pants. We stepped further away, sensing we were in a splash zone of sorts.

"Carol, please," insisted Persnippity.

"I GOT DA SHITS!" She roared back, her face now a full-blown shade of crimson red.

"Yyyep," Shmackie said, "I'm out."

We followed Shmackie to the other side of the station as Carol continued yelled into Persnippity's face.

"They're just tourists!" She said.

It was clear that Carol had made up her mind, and it was clear that we had to run away. Other pedestrians caught sight of her and darted in outward formations as if discovering a pipe bomb in the middle of the hallway. As we picked up our pace from speed walking to a light jog, I indulged a demonic urge to turn around and watched in horror the piling and the floor blossomed into a dark-brown tropical flower beneath Carol's bowed legs. Normally, this is not something people want to run into, but I thanked my lucky stars. I had spent 45 minutes racing after a parade that consisted of ill-fitting underwear and 238 kettle drums, and I needed something to shock my system. I didn't ask for Carol to do what she did, but I got it anyway. I'm sorry I made you picture Carol literally lose her shit all over the New York subway, but I like to share. It's my way of saying thank you to the universe for giving me blessings like Carol's horribly timed explosive diarrhea.

"That woman did not look pleased," Shmackie said as we regrouped on a different platform. "Y'know, the one whose friend just shit in the hallway?"

"I know," I said, "some people are so skittish."

I have no idea where we went after that because as far as I was concerned, no destination was going to top the journey.

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