Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Last week I drove with my daughter, Olivia, to Western Michigan University for her 2 day orientation.  In a stroke of genius, born of past stupidity, I carefully map-quested out every aspect of the journey beforehand.  I mapped out the drive there and the drive back, and, in addition, even mapped out the five minute drive from the college to the hotel I would be staying at, as well as the return route from the hotel back to the college.  I left no stone unturned in my efforts to make this trip one of the few that I have ever taken, during which there would be no possible way for me to get lost. Sadly, I underestimated my own abilities.
I only got a little bit lost when we first arrived in Kalamazoo, which I considered an exemplary achievement,  on my part.  I was tricked into going the wrong way at one of the many forks in the roads that the Kalamazoo City Planners have generously provided throughout the city, to confuse and frustrate unsuspecting travelers.  This problem was then compounded by the fact that almost all the streets in Kalamazoo are one-way, and, it goes without saying, that any one-way street will ALWAYS be in the opposite direction of the way I need to go in. From previous adventures to WMU though, I was able to navigate myself back onto a wonderful street called Westnedge, and I managed to be lost for only a mere 15 minutes, as a result.  Jubilant, we arrived on time, and began the many hours of orientation that, I soon realized, I had already participated in when I took Olivia to Western earlier in the year, to attend a Scholarship Competition.  Despite the success of my prior two back surgeries I have determined, through experience, that I must limit certain activities in order to avoid aggravating my back again. These activities are driving to Western Michigan University, and then sitting though  many hours of orientation that I have already participated in. Frankly, I considered myself a candidate for Sainthood when, after having left home at 5:15 that morning, I waited until 1:30 in the afternoon before I finally informed Olivia that I was going to hobble back to the car, and then head for my hotel.
I retrieved the directions I had printed out for the five minute journey, and eagerly began the trip to my hotel. About 20 minutes into the drive I began to think that something was amiss, but I doggedly remained on course and followed all of the directions to their end.  Surprisingly, when the directions indicated that  I should be at my destination I found myself on a dirt road, which ran along the side of  some railroad tracks, in a very unappealing section, of... I don't know where.  I continued on a short distance more, to ensure that the hotel wasn't secretly hiding in that tantalizing place known as "if only you would have gone just a little bit farther down the road" and then, with resignation, turned back.  I am not even sure when I began to check the clock, but I remember at some point I had been on the road for about an hour, and still had no idea where my hotel was.  I made my way back through the hellish maze of one-way streets and managed to take the wrong fork in the road that I had taken earlier in the morning, several more times, before I found my way back to Western Michigan University.  Once there, I began the journey again, (because, I guess,  I was somehow unsure that I had really gotten lost following the directions the first time) and, eventually, found myself in that same old comforting spot where the dirt road hugs the railroad tracks, in that very unappealing section, of... I don't know where.  I started back on my now annoyingly familiar trek to the university when, at exactly 3:45 PM on East Michigan Ave. near South Sprinkle, I had a revelation!  I realized that Dave had forced me to take his cellphone with me!!  I was overwhelmed by the miraculous nature of cellphones, and how convenient they are when one is lost on a dirt road by some railroad tracks, for the second time in one day.  After a quick call to the hotel I discovered what I already knew, which was that I wasn't anywhere near the hotel.  It was, actually, in a totally different direction than what I had map-quested, and once I made my way back to Western Michigan University again, I found  it quite easily.  It had taken me only three hours to reach the hotel that was five minutes away from the college; the same amount of time, I noted to myself with interest, that the entire drive from my house to the university had taken me that morning. 
I was overcome by joy and gratitude when I met the young woman who had given me the directions earlier and, had I not thought such a display would frighten her, I would have reached over the counter and hugged her if my arms had been long enough.  Then, as if my happiness at finally finding my hotel was not enough, she informed me that along with an ice machine, the hotel also offered vending machines that contained all the important food groups; diet coke, crunchy cheese curls and m&ms!!!!!  I was humbled by the magnitude of my good fortune.
After partaking of my bounty and resting for a short time I ventured back out again, to get some gas.  This time I was only lost very briefly, after forgetting to turn back onto Stadium Drive from 11th Street.  I returned to the hotel and slept peacefully, content in the knowledge that I was now, so familiar with the Kalamazoo area, that I couldn't possibly get lost again.
In the morning, as I bade farewell to a different innkeeper, I mentioned to her how map-quest had given me erroneous directions from the university to the hotel.  She voiced her appreciation, and mentioned that she would try and contact the site to correct the misinformation.  Upon returning to my car I glanced at my directions one last time, and noticed, only then, that, while I had entered the correct numerical address, I had, for some unknown reason, put in the incorrect street name.  Horrified, I contemplated returning to the lobby to inform the woman of my mistake.  After quickly surmising that such an admission of stupidity would be too embarrassing, even for someone such as myself who is used to making frequent admissions of stupidity,  I decided against it.  I started off  to the college instead and, after forgetting to turn onto Stadium Drive from 11th Street, and being forced to turn around again in the same driveway I had turned around in  the night before, I proceeded, uneventfully, back to the university....and I didn't even get lost once.