Today’s story comes from the “Things that could only happen to me” file. Previous entries in this popular series include:
- I’m 16 years old, it’s summer in Orlando, and I’m working the register at a retail store. A heavyset female customer pays for her items by unbuttoning her blouse, reaching into her bra, and producing a large, sweaty wad of cash.
- Taking Ballroom Dancing in college only to discover I have roughly the same level of coordination as a jar of mold. As a result, the females in the class collectively refuse to be my partner, leaving me with no option but to dance with the teacher Mauricio and his overwhelmingly hairy chest.
- Recently at a frozen yogurt shop, I’m two spoonfuls in when I bite down on something crunchy. I remove the object from my mouth—a bright red fingernail—and bring it to the teenage girl behind the counter. She accuses me of placing it there myself. Ironically, she was missing one fingernail.
People often ask me, “Rob, how do you get yourself into these situations?” And while I’d like to say, “it’s all part of my clever plan to create an endless supply of material to write about,” the truth is that these sorts of things just happen to me. They’re unavoidable. Like losing a sock in the dryer or Britney Spears forgetting to wear underwear.
For my latest entry in this cringe-filled series, we go to Wilmington, Delaware where I was driving to for a meeting and got lost. Before continuing, I should explain that I have, what’s referred to scientifically as, “a pretty crappy sense of direction.” And it doesn’t matter if my destination is a place I’ve never been to before or a place I’ve driven to so many times that even a ball of lint could find its way there and back, the outcome’s always the same: asking my wife for help.
“What now?” I ask nervously.
“First you pull out of our driveway,” she says.
On my trip to Wilmington, however, I was without the aid of my wife’s keen navigation skills and therefore wasted no time in getting lost. Now unlike many of my male counterparts, I have no hang-ups about stopping to ask for directions. After all, when you’re as direction-deficient as I am, you embrace anyone who’s willing to offer help. And so, upon arriving in Wilmington and realizing I was in one of those parts of town you just don’t want to be in, I immediately launched into my patented “direction begging” routine:
- Stop at the first convenience store I see.
- Ask the clerk for directions.
- Nod enthusiastically as they give me a complex series of turns to remember, which I proceed to forget the instant I walk out of the store.
- Stop at the next convenience store and repeat this process all over again.
And that’s when, the following exchange occurred:
- ME (to Clerk): Can you tell me how to get to Rogers Road?
- Clerk stares at like I’m the biggest dope he’s ever seen.
- ME: Rogers Road. Do you know how to get there?
- GUY IN BACK OF LINE: You’re holding up the whole line!
- ME (to guy): I’m trying to find out—
- GUY IN BACK OF LINE: Don’t hold up the whole line, son. I’ll show you how to get there. I’ve got a map in my truck!
The guy (who from this point on will be referred to as Gus because for one thing, he just looked like a Gus and secondly, well, that was the name on the mechanic’s shirt he was wearing) paid for his gigantic Super Xtreme Gulp o’ Cola, and led me outside to his truck.
“Crap! I’m locked out of my damn truck!” Gus screamed. “Again!”
Over the course of next several minutes, Gus tried to pick the lock while I looked around expecting that, at any moment, a camera crew would pop out from behind the trees or Gus’ giant cola and tell me I was on a hidden video show, at which point we’d all have a good laugh and the credits would roll.
That didn’t happen. But finally, when Fate decided I had enough material for this column, Gus smacked himself on his forehead and started laughing. Then he walked around to the (brace yourself) unlocked passenger door (yeah, seriously) and laughed, “man, I’ve been smoking too much pot lately!”
And then, holding the sticky map he pulled out from the glove compartment, Gus smiled, finally able to assist me in my plight.
“What’re looking for again?”
“Never heard of it. You better drive to the 7-Eleven and ask them. Just go straight, make your second right, turn left at the third fork in the road, drive two miles and make another left. You can’t miss it.”
I smiled and nodded. Even though I had no idea what he was talking about.