I used to claim I had only been lost once, this being during the Great Hungarian (Mis)adventure that I took Chasity on during the summer of ‘06.
I make this claim of only being lost once based on my own definition of “lost.” While dictionary.com defines the state of being lost as “having gone astray or missed the way, and, bewildered as to place or direction,” I prefer to think that one is lost only when they are both a) unsure of where they are, and b) unsure of how to get to where it is they are trying to go.
If you do not know where you are but you know how to get where you are trying to go, you are not lost. If this was being lost, then thousands of travelers would be lost every day, finding themselves somewhere on the 1,927 miles of Interstate 95, although quite likely not exactly sure where. (Switzerland, South Carolina, where is that)?
If you do know where you are but you don’t know how to get where you are trying to go you may be a little more frustrated than in the situation above, but you are still not lost; of course not, you know where you are!
So the only time I did not know where I was or how to get where I was trying to go was when Chas and I found ourselves being kicked off a train in the town of Eger, Hungary. Problem was, as I remember it, you cannot see Eger from its station, giving wayward travelers the impression that they are literally in the middle of nowhere. (Perhaps ‘Eger’ is Hungarian for “nowhere?” Who knows, the language has no cognates unless you’re talking about computers)! Anyway, we did not know where we were, and thus met the first qualification of being lost.
We knew where we wanted to go, however. Our destination was the town of Lučenec, Slovakia, and as far as we knew, we were headed in the right direction. Geographically speaking, in fact, we were. However, the lady working at the train station promptly informed us that it was not in any way (short of walking for the better part of a day or renting a car for which we didn’t have a license to drive) possible to get to Lučenec from Eger.
We didn’t know where we were and we didn’t know how to get where we wanted to go. We were, as we put it, “straight up” lost.
The picture says it all:
That being said, since moving to Seattle I can no longer say that the only time I have been truly lost was when I was kicked off a train in Middleofnowhere, Hungary. In fact, you might say that being lost has become my new hobby. It definitely makes the time between nanny shifts and waiting for school to begin (two weeks and counting) pass quickly.
When you move to a new city, especially one considerably bigger and further away than anywhere else you’ve ever lived, you begin to feel a sense of accomplishment when you find yourself arriving at the destination you were actually trying to get to. (If MapQuest was on Facebook, we’d be top friends). Even greater of a feat, however, is finding your way to the same place again.
Take tonight, for example. As I write this I am sitting in a café that is “10.02 miles and 15 minutes” from where I’m living. It took me no less than an hour to get here.
I decided that I would come downtown to get a little city life and a good cup of coffee while editing some photos, writing a few various thank you notes, and updating this blog. (If I haven’t specified before, I’m not actually living in the city, although I would love to be. As you might guess, the family I am nannying for decided not to raise their children in downtown Seattle, but live instead in a quaint neighborhood just across Lake Washington from downtown).
I thought about going back to Bauhaus Books & Coffee in Capitol Hill but decided to google “Seattle coffeehouses” to find a cool new place to try instead. I found several that looked interesting, including Blue Dog Coffee House, Victrola Coffee Roasters, and Café Vivace. After all that, however, I had another idea, and decided to try and find my way back to this neat café I went to last week with Karen and some of her friends when she was in town. I didn’t remember the name of the place but I did remember where it was. The sun was still shining and I knew I had plenty of time left to find it in the daylight, so I set out, leaving MapQuest at home.
I drove across the I-90 bridge with the windows down singing along with the 70’s station on XM radio (free for the first three months, and then I’m sure going to miss it)! Traffic came to a standstill in the tunnel just before I-90 intersects I-5. I rolled my windows up (it was a little creepy being parked in an underground tunnel), but traffic was moving again soon and the windows came back down.
Somehow, in a momentary lapse of memory, I forgot that exit numbers increase as you go north and I passed my destination exit (166) without notice, “knowing” that it came after 167 and not before. I was a little surprised to pass 167 and see 168 ahead of me, but, not concerned, I decided to just take 168 and make my way back south along the city roads. Through a series of right turns I turned myself around and began making my way back towards Capitol Hill and Cal Anderson Park.
Cal Anderson Park is a nice city park in Capitol Hill. After discovering that parking is free there I have been using it as a jumping-off point when exploring the area. I knew that the café was just off the perimeter of the park and that I could both park and find the café easily from there. (How bad could parking be on a Tuesday night)?
Anyway, although I didn’t know where I was at the moment (other than somewhere north of where I wanted to be), I quickly realized that I was in a very beautiful part of the city. To the west I could see the setting sun sparkling on the water of Lake Union; the streets to the east were lined with beautiful old houses, reminiscent of those you might find in Charleston or even Europe. Runners were enjoying the pleasant weather and small groups of friends were walking together on the sidewalks. I drove along as the wind blew through my hair, singing along with Dave Mason’s version of “We Just Disagree.”
I decided that, as nice as this was, I should probably find my way to the park before it started to get dark. That’s when I realized I really didn’t know where I was, and I definitely didn’t know how to get where I was trying to go. I had an idea of the general direction, but no definite course.
Was this my daily dose of being lost?
Maybe not; through a random series of left turns, right turns, and most likely several wrong turns, I found myself on one of the streets I was looking for!
Then, I found myself in a right-turn only lane, barricaded in by a city bus to my left. I was forced to turn off the street, on to another I didn’t recognize.
Maybe, but no sweat. I remembered how our Hungarian excursion ended (happily ever after, of course). A very nice Hungarian guy (who was patiently waiting to buy a train ticket as I cross-examined the lady at the ticket booth to double and triple check that there was really no way to ANYwhere in Slovakia from Eger) interrupted us long enough to inform me, in perfect English, that he did not speak English.
Useful information I’m sure, but I couldn’t see how that was going to help Chasity and me at the moment.
However, he then pulled out his cell phone and proceeded to book us a room at a nearby hotel. He also drew us a detailed map to the hotel from the station, complete with useful landmarks such as an ATM where we could get Hungarian Forints to pay for the hotel and a grocery store that accepted credit cards. Finishing just as he started with perfect English, he informed us that he had to go because he had a train to catch, bought a ticket, and swiftly disappeared, before we even had a chance to thank him for his help.
Anyway, although I had previously only been lost “once in my life,” that one experience turned out okay, so I was sure this one would as well.
I drove around the block until I was back where I had been a few moments before, making a point to stay in the left-hand lane this time. This time I made it through the intersection only to discover that the street I needed to turn right on was one-way, heading left! I kept going, zigging and zagging in what I hoped was the direction of the park, hoping to find another familiar street.
Suddenly I came to a stoplight at the intersection of one of the streets I was looking for! Now, the only question was this: left or right? At first I was certain the park had to be to the right, but, typical of me, I changed my mind at the last moment and turned left instead.
Finally, things began to look familiar. There was a corner Walgreen’s I was certain I had walked by a time or two, a memorable gourmet dog biscuit store, and Area 51, an interesting furniture store.
Then, I saw it:
Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Okay, I’m not a huge fan, but the KFC had been a landmark on a previous trip to the park, I knew I was getting close.
I made several left turns and was relieved to find not only the park, but also that the café was exactly where I had left it last week. (Turns out it’s not true that if you leave something at a city park it will be gone when you come back for it).
Once I found the café, however, I realized that I couldn’t find the one thing I hadn’t even realized I had lost: a place to park. I had passed several between the park and the café, but I wanted to find the café before I parked so I would know how far away it was.
My 15-minute trip had already taken me half an hour. The search for a parking spot, however, doubled the length of my commute again. Finally, after another thirty minutes of parking spot prowling and one hour after I left the house, I found a place to park on a side street between two cars, about 6 inches wider than my car.
At first I was a little leery, but after two short adjustments, I impressed myself with how easily I maneuvered the Trailblazer into the uncommonly small space.
Meet Melanie, parallel parking extraordinaire! (Don’t call me for directions, but if you need help parking your car, give me a ring)!
I left my car and walked the few blocks between the café and the car. I laughed when I got there as I discovered that the café turned out to be Café Vivace, one of the “new” cafés I found through Google and had decided to wait to visit until another night!
Now, three and a half hours and two cups of “Café Americano” after climbing into my car to go somewhere to write thank you notes and edit some pictures, I have opened neither my box of thank you cards nor Photoshop. In fact, all I have to show for my effort is one unnecessarily long, rambling, blog post.
I could write my thank you notes now, but I think I’ll try to find my way home again instead!
I wonder what else I’ll find along the way… ☺