Not all who wander are lost — they might be looking for their car

image As I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion, I’m severely directionally challenged. I have admitted this openly, without shame, in hopes that I might be an inspiration to those out there who, at this very moment, might be looking up at the Seattle Space Needle and wondering:

When was this thing moved to Atlanta?

I specifically mention the Space Needle because experts suggest that people who are easily lost should use landmarks as a way of maintaining a sense of direction in unfamiliar territory. For me, this means staying keenly aware of my surroundings while, at the same time, avoiding eye contact with anyone who might actually be willing to offer directions. Though some think this stems from my stubborn streak, it’s really more about avoiding a conversation that begins something like this:

Hi there. I seem to be lost. Can you tell me the easiest way out of the parking lot?

This is no exaggeration; I actually did get turned around in an unfamiliar parking lot this week. That’s because I made the mistake of not retracing my exact steps back to the car. Instead, I took the nearest exit leading from the building and proceeded directly outside which, for me, was like walking into the “Upside-Down Room” at the House of Mystery. I eventually discovered that I was at the complete opposite end of the parking lot from where I came in — but not before my wandering caught the attention of at least three people who stopped to ask if my car had been stolen.

Because of this condition, the thought of trying to find my way through a “haunted corn” maze sounds about as fun as trying to find my way…

Well… just about anywhere else.

Apparently, for a few dollars, I can do what I normally do, except with the added benefit of being completely surrounded by corn. To me, this is a little like someone with claustrophobia paying for a chance to spend the night in a 55-gallon drum. For my kids, however, it’s an opportunity to participate in something they say could become a “special Halloween tradition.” In my opinion, it’s really not that special; I get lost near corn all the time. In fact, throw in some more fruits and vegetable and it’s pretty much like me going to the supermarket.

Of course, it’s not usually in the dark with people dressed as maniacs jumping out from behind the cantaloupe.

That’s generally at Walmart but with the lights on.

Because my kids have their hearts set on this Halloween experience that will bring our family even closer together before the reading of my Last Will and Testament (which will probably take place right there in the corn maze), I decided to call the maze in question and see if there was any chance my $10 fee included a global positioning device. I was told “No,” but that I had nothing to worry about.

I thanked him for his assurance and assured him I plan to eat as much corn as humanly possible until rescued by a search party.

He said he hoped I was hungry.

So if there’s no column next week, chances are I’m still stuck in a corn maze somewhere near Junction City, Ore. If any of you happen to be out that way, I’d appreciate some help finding my way out.

You know where to find me.

Which is more than I can say for myself.

(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, or Barnes & Noble.)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

77 thoughts on “Not all who wander are lost — they might be looking for their car”

  1. Oh, I relate completely. I can get lost walking five blocks from my house, and never give me directions to go “east” or “west” since I have absolutely no sense of direction. Sometimes, I even hesitate as to which is “right” or “left.” I’m pathetic. A cornfield would destroy me as soon as I entered it. You have my sympathy. My advice is: “Do Not Enter.”

    1. Yes! This is awesome! I see more Lost are chiming in with comments. No ‘east’ or ‘west’ for me. Definitely use landmarks. Absolutely not a chance that I’ll remember if I’m not driving myself to a new place. Forget asking me where we parked. Once I move away from an area, it’s not much time before I completely forget even common directions (like how to get to the house I lived in for two years or how to get to the only mall). I’ve told my family I was directionally challenged, but I didn’t know it was shared. My Lost Pack at last!

      1. Welcome, Pack member. Being geographically challenged can lead to all kinds of adventures. For sixty years (until his demise two years ago) a friend and I used to get lost everywhere we went….New York, California,Minnesota, Nevada, Bratislava. …and discovered all kinds of places and met all kinds of people. Our battle cry was “Tomorrow, the world!”

        1. What a marvelous friend you shared travel with!

          My last big trip was to drive across many states to welcome my son home after he was deployed to a war zone. I made it! After the reunion, I went to my motel, and was supposed to return to his base and pick him up so he could pick up his car from where it was stored (before closing time). On the advice of someone who lived in the area, I took a better route. I made it… but not until I looked up and realized I was at the border of Mexico and had to turn around (there was no time for that adventure). I laughed and smelled the sunshine, and like Pa Ingalls said, “All’s well that ends well!”

  2. LOL, I love it. Do have a good time.

    Just for the record, my husband is not directionally challenged, not ever. We do sometimes take an alternative route and on occasion we have spent 7 or 8 extra hours in a car exploring the scenery, but he always knows exactly where we are.

    The space needle, by the way, is the worst landmark ever. I got lost in Seattle once and the kid actually asked me, so which side of the space needle are you on? Uh, I don’t know, the thing is round, does it even have sides? It’s on my right side, unless I turn around, and then it’s on my left……wait, how is this helpful?

    1. Your husband wouldn’t happen to be planning on a visit to the Junction City, Ore., area this weekend, would he? He sounds like the kind of person I’d like to have with me in the maze. I’ll supply the beer and corn.

  3. LoL…glad to know I’m not alone! My daughter wanted to do the corn maze last year (she was 7 at the time) and ended up leading us out of it since I had gotten us completely and utterly lost. If not for the invention of the GPS, I’d have to stay within a one mile radius of my home 🙂

  4. Here’s a tip: try looking it up on Google Maps before you go and you might get lucky and see the maze on satellite view. We go apple picking every year and they have a corn maze we tend to get lost in. When I was double checking driving directions, I checked the satellite view and viola! There it was! We still got lost, but not as badly this year.

  5. This is why they don’t do compass headings in Europe, Ned. Unlike the US Interstate system (which was modeled after Hitler’s Autobahn) the limited access high-speed motorways are tastefully sprinkled with direction signs (and absolutely no advertising) and information that include ONLY the name of the upcoming cities. None of that E – W – N – S stuff. The closer you are to the city the bigger the letters and they are at the TOP of the sign. If you go past your destination (which is not that hard doing 240kph) you stop seeing the city name. Maybe they should do those in red.

  6. I may not be quite as bad as you, but I totally suck with getting turned around and knowing where I am, even with a map handy. My freshman year in college, the upperclassmen on the soccer team dragged me from an off campus party and stripped me to my underpants because they’re fucking sadists. Anyway, they blindfolded me and put me in a cornfield in the middle of Illinois. I thought I was miles and miles from campus, and even though I did end up walking miles and miles, it turns out I was 200 yards away. I guess had I known which direction the moon faces and all that stuff, I’d have saved myself a lot of walking.

    1. Ha! Man, that’s cruel! Maybe if they’d stripped your underpants you would’ve had a better chance of following the moon? Either way, it’s good to know another public servant has as bad a sense of direction. Being that I drive the fire engine, my captain has learned to assume I don’t know where I’m going — and I’ve learned to wait until someone tells me.

  7. i am exactly the same ned, and there is an actual name for those of us who have this condition, it is called dyscalculia. look it up – interesting. i felt a bit redeemed after reading about it. and the good news is, we are extremely high in other areas, especially in literacy. maybe you should become a writer.

      1. well, it’s all in how you choose to live with it i guess and it does sound a bit similar… for the writing, who knows? it could just work out.

        1. I have to say, aside from a few minor inconveniences, most of the time I end up discovering people or places I’d have never found otherwise. I guess I think of it more as an instinctive desire to not get stuck in a rut. I’ve also learned to leave early 😉

          Oh, and I’ll let you know how the writing thing pans out!

  8. I am a perfect navigator and never get lost or get my husband lost. It’s like I’m a natural or something, tuned in to the earth’s gravitational pull n stuff.

    (this is my world and my husband isn’t on wordpress so nobody can prove otherwise)

  9. My eldest is directionally challenged (she takes after my mother who constantly would get lost in the mall no matter how many times I told her it was a figure 8); she has gotten better the past few years. I, on the other hand, well I just need to go somewhere once and I will be able to get there again. Sorry.

    1. Sure rub it in. If I ever make it out your way, like if I happen to make a trip to the store and get lost, I know who I want as my guide. But if you could keep it in a figure 8, I’d appreciate it.

  10. Apparently (according to my Garden Gnome) you always go left in a maze. *sigh* Although I do believe on that occasion it took me calling out to those on the outside to find our way out.

  11. Hehe…I have this same problem. Inevitably my sense of direction is always wrong. I can’t trust my “gut” instinct. I feel like I should be able to. When my gut says, I’m sure we should go right, usually we should be going left. I got lost in the woods the other day and my gut was wrong at every single turn. Eventually I found my way to a road and back to the car, but jeesh! IT was terrifying! Next time, I took my phone with GPS turned on and tried to navigate and yup, every single turn I wanted to take by “instinct” was absolutely the wrong direction. I’m special like that. I should learn to trust the opposite of whatever my gut is telling me because clearly….my sense of direction needs help.

    1. I had no idea there were so many people with the same horrible sense of direction constantly getting lost out there. The good news is, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time until we start bumping into one another 😉

  12. I always think of the 1 star movie, Children of the Corn. BEWARE!!!! I love this time of year and the creepiness of it.
    I have an idea. Bring along a spool of white thread and roll it out as you go. You may not find the other exit, but you can find your way back. You could add to the excitement of others walking in the dark if you pull really hard.

  13. Note to self: Ned and Michelle can never take a road trip together.

    I have to park in the same spot every time at the airport…level 2, row 22, 2 tower. It would work great except that we have three terminals and no connectors between them–this system only works if I land in the same terminal I flew out of.
    I’m terrified of corn mazes. We had a milo field (taller than corn) 100 yards from my childhood home. I spent an ENTIRE afternoon in that field and ended up at the neighbors house a mile away.
    I wish I was kidding 🙂

    Please, PLEASE write about your corn maze adventure next week. We need to know that you made it to a safe place 😉

    1. Duly noted; it sounds like even a corn maze could lead to our demise, or at least your neighbor’s house.

      By the way, I usually go with level 3, row 33, tower 3 at airport parking. Next time I’m there, I’ll bang on the ground and see if you’re around!

  14. My hubby is so much like you! In his case I think he just doesn’t have any more room in his brain in which to hold these directions. He consistently relies on me (his human GPS) to get him from one spot to another & to find the car when we leave the building. Only once did we have to resort to setting off our car alarm in an underground parking lot to find out we were on the completely wrong level, so I think I’m pretty good at being a human GPS.

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