In honor of the fact that my driver’s license is finally expiring after what seems like ages and since they didn’t just mail me a new one again like last time, I actually have to brave the DMV and a camera for a new photo (two of my least favorite activities) . Over the remainder of this week I’ll be sharing some of my adventures and lessons learned while behind the wheel. For Part I, which focuses on first car accidents and lessons learned, click here. For Part II, which focuses on the anticipation and impatience associated with the time right before you legally obtain a driver’s license as a teenager, click here.
Are you near a body of water? Do you see any tall buildings? Are planes flying overhead? Can you describe your surroundings? What is the weather like?
About a year ago or more, my ex-roommate and I jokingly and haphazardly came up with the premise for a new action genre film.. Obviously, we can’t give you all of the details and we’re sure that someone else has already thought of it as well or perhaps it has already been covered in a film—but they probably weren’t working with the level of confusion, exhaustion, and delirium that we were. I’m also fairly certain our imaginations could probably give theirs a run for their money. Actually, we’ll probably never develop it. So, if you feel you can do a good job with the basic storyline, it’s all yours. The general plotline involved being kidnapped via your GPS/Navigation system – I’ll allow you to piece together your own summer blockbuster from that.
This all came about due to the fact that my vehicle was at the mechanics– spending time as a temporary roommate with one of the original Dukes of Hazard cars–and I had asked her for a ride to some locations for work-related events that I had to oversee. Her navigation system proceeded to try to get us there via backstreets and what seemed to be alleys at times. If we didn’t find it so entertaining and weren’t too busy coming up with that idea and fleshing everything out by adding to the plotline with every mile we drove, we might’ve been more apprehensive of where we were being led as neither of us had ever been to this part of L.A. county. Eventually we made it to the site and it was one of multiple events that were going on simultaneously that I had to drop in at. Each event was located in yet another part of L.A. that we weren’t familiar with, leaving us continuously unsure if we were headed in the right direction.
How often are we actually headed in the right direction though? Overall in my life, I can’t say I’m necessarily headed in the right direction at all times, but I can definitely say that for the most part I’m headed in the direction I voluntarily want to go. Again, right or wrong may not always be completely obvious from the outset, but at least it’s my choice.
Now when it comes to driving, that’s a whole other story. I will openly admit that I have absolutely no sense of direction when I am behind the wheel, as I mentioned in yesterday’s Part II of this “Behind the Wheel” series that my younger brother got this gene, possessing an amazing sense of direction.
Sure, I can get from Point A to Point B without the help of a GPS/Navigation System; however just as easily I can get completely turned around in the most familiar of areas. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been lost in my life, often time resulting with a short trip quickly doubling or tripling the destination estimated arrival time. If we were in a court of law trying to verify this, I’d have to immediately declare myself as “Guilty,” due to the amount of friends/boyfriends etc. who have been witness to this that would in a heartbeat testify as well as provide incriminating depictions of the various times they’d been an unwilling accomplice to what a couple of my friends refer to as my “whimsical meanderings.” I’m not sure exactly where the whimsical part comes in as we don’t end up in some fantastic alternate universe. However, my saving grace is that I don’t really get bothered by these detours and therefore most of the time the “being lost” part ends up being so much more enjoyable than the “destination experience” that we were originally seeking. Unless, of course, we need to be somewhere by a specific time or are under a time crunch, then the experience takes on more of a hypertension-inducing fervor worthy of an “Amazing Race” episode than a leisurely drive in the countryside (confession, I’ve actually never seen that show and don’t even know if it’s still on – but in show promos they always appeared to be on a mission with a limited amount of time.). If there is no time constraint and I happen to get lost on my own, I sometimes actually enjoy it immensely as my life can sometimes feel so regimented and my days are constantly booked from morning to late evening that a slight disruption such as this can serve as a temporary respite from the go-go-go that I am usually immersed in.
I can’t even begin to tell you all of the stories of the various times that my destination has eluded me. Ranging from my only trip ever on the 91 Freeway, where I completely confidently stated that “in order to go West on the 91 Freeway you must first go East.” I don’t know if I’ve ever uttered words that were wiser, inaccurate yes I know – but still a very prolific statement if you ask me. Friends threatened to make t-shirts that said that, I’m still waiting for them to make good on that threat. There was also the time in college that I led a caravan of cars full of college friends to Valencia (or some other incorrect location) when our destination was Hollywood – don’t judge, I have no idea why everyone was following me to begin with. Then the most elusive location—my local “unicorn” or “loch ness monster” if you will– in Los Angeles of all, for some reason a few years ago I could never quite recall where exactly the Little Radio Warehouse was, despite the fact that we went there fairly regularly. It never failed, if I was driving I would completely blank out on its location. One day our adventure trying to locate it was so bad, that a guy friend that was with us finally became so fed up that he demanded to drive and so I was demoted to riding shotgun in my own vehicle.
Despite the fact that I think they are miracle-workers for the geographically challenged like me, I can’t quite let myself completely grow dependent on GPS/Navigation systems. I also hate reading maps. I like to say that I don’t know how to read maps; this is actually not really true. I can read a map, I just don’t want to. They are rarely aesthetically pleasing (with the exception of the clay map to scale that I did of California in like third grade, I made sure that one was something I would want to look at), and have way too much going on. As I’ve mentioned in previous columns I’ve written, I have a pretty dependable photographic memory. This would lead you to think that a map, which is basically an illustration of a geographical area, would be something I could easily recall. However, for some reason I find it much easier to recall a printout of four to five simple lines of printed directions than a map full of a.d.d. inducing neighboring streets, landmarks, city buildings. Driving directions for me have always been more of a tool for “getting down to business” and a map is more for picking where I might want to travel to next
It’s safe to say that if you gave me a Thomas Guide for my birthday, I wouldn’t be rude and refuse it as I’m sure I could probably find a practical use for it at some point in the future, like to use it to kill a spider, use the maps to wrap up breakables the next time I move, or I might even get creative and use it as liner paper or incorporate it into some piece of art. Don’t worry, I would still send you a thank you note though.
However, if you insist that I use it for what it was intended; you would quickly become one of my least favorite people. Although you could easily get back into my good graces if you accompanied it with a history of cartography or a biography of the Thomas Bros. or even Rand McNally. My sense of direction would not have improved any, but at least you would’ve contributed to the expansion of my knowledge in a related subject and should be quite pleased with yourself. I would change the tone from one of simple gratitude to one of enthusiastic gratitude in your thank you note for that one.
So, there you go yet another valuable source of information and tool as to how to manipulate me into doing something you want, like arriving in a timely manner to meet you somewhere I’m not familiar with. If you need me to be on time to somewhere that I’m not familiar with the route for, you’re best off handing me a printout of the driving directions or asking me if I’ve taken a look at the directions. If there is no time constraint and we happen to get lost, just sit back and enjoy my musical selections as we’re in for an adventure and you’ll get one more story to tell involving me.
Check back tomorrow for the conclusive final part (IV of IV) of this “Behind the Wheel” series
illustration originally published here