I have no sense of direction. I know I have no sense of direction. Whatever chemical or brain part or chromosome responsible for this trait is missing a molecule or neuron or gene in my body.
However navigational technology changed my life. Now I am able to negotiate entire neighborhoods confident that I won’t be lost, or at least won’t be lost for long. However, I did find a few glitches in the GSP world while traveling in Spain and Portugal last September.
After three blissful days in Lisbon as pedestrians, Mike and I rented a car for the next leg of our journey. There were two of us, and the one who wasn’t driving was navigating. Mike was driving. Imagine the anxiety that both of us experienced when we deduced that I’M the one who would determine the best route.
To me leaving Libson via rental car was more daring than leaving by hot air balloon. In a balloon you’re ABOVE roundabouts not playing a motorized version of crack-the-whip IN them. Mike assured me that leaving the Lisbon airport would be a snap. I vainly scouted for a balloon port.
While Mike secured the Ibiza, I studied the Michelin map atlas as if I were Henry the Navigator. At the counter I jotted down directions from the Portuguese Avis clerk.
“He said ‘A12’ NOT 812,” corrected Mike as he read over my shoulder.
I wasn’t off to a good start.
All seemed doable until the clerk said, “Take the fifth exit off the roundabout.” He might as well have said, “Blindfold yourself and proceed using echolocation.”
Once buckled in my copilot seat, Mike, the optimist, patted my knee and assured me I was up to the task.
I knew better.
Needing help, I plugged in the Garmin, booted up Google maps on my IPhone, propped the annotated atlas in my lap and held the written notes in my hand. (The confused often overcompensate.)
While the Garmin and the Google searched for satellites we turned right, drove through the tunnel, and veered left. The roundabout was found before the satellites. We miscounted the exits or misread the signs, took the wrong exit and were lost. This was a record even for me.
“Pull over,” I counseled.
It was like advising pulling over on the Dan Ryan Expressway. Mike wisely ignored me and made a U turn for a second run at the roundabout. The iPhone kicked in seconds before the Garmin. Now we had a round of directions going- Google stated the next step in our quest to leave Lisbon, I repeated it, then the Garmin joined in. The Garmin and Google had slightly different interpretations of our route. Mike synthesized the information like an air traffic controller and somehow safely navigated the roundabout.
We broke free of Lisbon’s grasp, but had ten more cities and towns to traverse.
I decided that upon returning home I’d pursue my balloonist’s license.