I’ve never really been lost. I’ve been momentarily displaced or disoriented, but never truly lost. You see, I have a built-in compass in my brain. For some reason, I always know which way is north, south, east, and west. That ability may not always tell you where you are, but it certainly tells you where you need to go and that’s why I’m never truly lost. As long as I know what direction my destination is, I will always find it one way or another.
When I was very young, like about 4 or 5 years old, I was fascinated by maps. I was so fascinated that I hand drew the entire map of Milwaukee on multiple sheets of paper and taped it all together. Then I hand drew a map of my neighborhood that had streets wide enough to drive my Hot Wheel cars on and I began to build structures out of popsicle sticks and toothpicks. It was magnificent! I was nearly finished when an errant tennis ball thrown by my brother and chased by our dog wiped it all out. Talk about natural disasters!
Anyway, my fascination with maps was increased even further when my dad and I found an old classroom roll down map in the attic of an old building. It was so old that Milwaukee was much smaller and places that would later become part of Milwaukee still retained their old names, like the Town of Lake and the Town of Granville. It was such an interesting piece of history and I absorbed it all. That fascination got me into a little trouble when I was about 7 or 8 years old.
One nice day, I decided I didn’t need to go to school. Oh, I left the house on time as if I was going, but after that, I just couldn’t bring myself to go. First, I went to the park and fed my favorite squirrel. We were so fond of each other, he would eat out of my hand. Then I took a walk…a very long walk. There was a little park with a pond that I had seen on the maps, so that became my destination. I had also read in the newspaper that this particular park had a problem with dive-bombing crows, so naturally, I had to check this out.
The park was about a couple of miles from my house, so it was an interesting walk. Nobody questioned a little boy walking through the neighborhood on a school day and even though it seemed to be a safer time in our country, I was surprised. I made it to the park and waited for the crows. Nothing. So I wandered over to the pond. I immediately regretted not packing my fishing pole but spotted some tangled fishing line on a shoreline bush with a bobber and hook attached. I managed to get a serviceable amount untangled, tied it to a short branch, and looked around for bait. Then I remembered my packed lunch, tore a piece of bread, rolled it into a little piece of dough, and fished.
I didn’t get home until after dark and the police were there. I lied about where I had been and nobody believed me. I can’t remember the full lie, but it had something to do with riding around with a stranger. Isn’t it funny when your lie makes things so much worse than the truth? Anyway, when it all unraveled, I was grounded for a good while. If I had known I would get caught, I would’ve brought home some of the fish I caught. That pond was pretty well stocked with bluegills and sunfish that I put back after catching them.
The instinct I have for directions has come in handy in my life. I used it while in the Boy Scouts, while camping, while hiking, in the army, and finally to impress a co-worker when we were trying to find a location in Seattle.
We were driving together when I veered off the freeway and started driving through a neighborhood. We were looking around at the cool houses on some very winding roads when my co-worker started asking about it.
CO-WORKER: How did you know about this way to get there?
ME: I didn’t.
ME: I’ve never been in this neighborhood in my life.
CO-WORKER: …Are we lost?
ME: No, the place we’re going is in that direction (said while pointing).
CO-WORKER: Are you sure?
ME: Yep, it’s north. We should be there in a couple minutes.
Sure enough, we were there in a couple minutes. Even the non-conforming streets of Seattle are no match for my directional instinct (brag, brag). Also, it’s often cloudy in Seattle so you can’t say I followed the sun (even more brag, brag). I just know this instinct comes in handy sometimes. If we ever deal with the apocalypse, I’ll be the handy guy in the group, that low key character that everybody listens to when he talks.
CHARISMATIC LEADER OF SURVIVAL GROUP: Ok, we’ll just shoot our way through the zombies until we get to the warehouse filled with food that for some reason hasn’t already been taken or hasn’t gone bad after all this time! I want the token ax-wielder on my left and the token sword swinger on my right. You, the one with perfect directional instincts who keeps low-key, in the middle. We don’t want you to get hurt. Those of you that are just filling in space, go to the front so you’ll get killed first. Let’s go!
ME: Wrong way.
CHARISMATIC LEADER OF SURVIVAL GROUP: Huh?
ME: Wrong way. The warehouse is behind us and we don’t have to shoot zombies.
CHARISMATIC LEADER OF SURVIVAL GROUP: Wait, no zombies to shoot? We have to shoot zombies! I brought in all these expendable people to die! They’ll be awfully disappointed if we don’t need them.
ME: Well, you can still use them. There happens to be a group of normal acting people along the way who have become secret cannibals and will pretend to be our friends until dinnertime.
CHARISMATIC LEADER OF SURVIVAL GROUP: Let’s go!
Possible moral of this story? Learn your directions…this will make you non-expendable and you won’t end up on somebody’s dinner plate.