Lost and Found

All of us are so reliant on technology for directions when traveling anywhere, and there are now multiple avenues for helping us to find our way. New cars have built-in GPS devices, we can purchase a mobile GPS at any number of stores to install in our automobile, choose one of many mapping APPS on our cell phones, or  print out our directions on our home computer—a back-up in the event our travels lead us through a location with no cell service. It is so easy now.

Back in the dark ages of my youth, Grandpa would pick up a map at the local gas station (they were given out free at most) and plan a route. We’d all pile into the family truckster and off we’d go. Unfortunately, it was not uncommon for him to take a wrong turn. So like Dorothy looking for the Emerald City, he would eventually have no choice but to stop for directions—usually at a gas station along the way. I recall a trip to Bear Mountain Park in New York where Grandpa got lost so many times that we began keeping score. He was not amused!

Returning from a college visit in Connecticut, the fact that Grandpa was directionally challenged brought us to what appeared to be a parade route, with hundreds of people lining the White Plains street where his wrong turn had dumped us. We were stuck, so we pulled onto a side street and returned to the action. What could it be? If we had watched the news that morning, we would have known that President Nixon’s motorcade would be traversing the streets of lower Westchester County that afternoon as he tried to rustle up some last-minute votes before the November election. A point for Grandpa!

A few years later, I visited my friend Karen at her school in Syracuse, New York, armed with nothing but her directions and a few maps. There were no cell phones to help if I got lost or to phone home if I broke down or ran out of gas. After I pulled out of our driveway, I was on my own. I suppose Grandma worried a bit, but it’s just what you did. I don’t think she or I lost any sleep over that trip.

When I was a commuter at Montclair State College, I had some sort of car issue which left me stranded alongside the road somewhere between school and home. I was dating Dad at the time, so I pulled over, and after assessing the situation and determining that my car was truly dead, I knocked on a door and asked to make a phone call. I hadn’t invented the cell phone yet, and I was not up to the long trek home. Fortunately, the homeowners were not axe murderers, and a short time later, my white knight rode in on his horse to rescue me.

I know you all remember the trip to Memphis in 1995. You were young, just 10, 8, and 5. What was I thinking? I was brave and confident and dumb. I printed out many pages of maps—in triplicate—and colored in symbols along the way. Each time one of you asked, “Are we there yet?” I would reply that we were at the star or the triangle or the square on page 3 or 5 or 7. That gave each of you a feel for where we were on our journey and would shut you up for a while. Fortunately, I was armed with a cell phone, so after we passed the U.S. Capitol for at least the third time, we made a call to my friend Mitzie, who was able to set us back on the correct path to Oz.

The objective of my ramblings is to point out how much easier it is for you to get from point A to point B during your travels than it was years ago. The down side, I fear, is that this technology sometimes becomes a crutch. What would you do if you went on a road trip armed with only a map? I won’t remove the cell phone because telephone booths are obsolete. But no smart phones! Could you do it? Would you do it? I think I will suggest to Dad that we try it.

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