I suffer from a very rare disorder. I am – ‘navigationally-directionally challenged.’ This disorder is so rare that I can’t even find it on Google yet. (I may have to start my own support group.) Anyway, this disorder means that I have trouble with directions, spatial concepts, and basic remembering where the hell I’m supposed to be going. Its the reason why I only ever park my car in places where there are NO other vehicles in sight – because I struggle to gauge distances. And why I sometimes can’t find where I parked my car at the mall. (Or else somebody moved it just to be spiteful…) It’s the reason why I panic if I have to change lanes – because I can’t figure out how much space or time I have before the other car smashes into me….why I chucked my GPS in the rubbish after cursing it repeatedly – because it says stuff like, “Turn left after 30 meters.” How in heck am I supposed to know where to turn left when I dont know how far is 30 meters? How stupid can a talking machine be? It’s the reason why I can still get lost driving to the bank and it explains why I am a prisoner of Te Atatu in West Auckland – because I’m too scared (stupid) to drive outside my safety comfort zone. Finally, it’s the reason why I’ve been in several car accidents – because I misjudged vehicle speed and timing and I stopped when I should have gone faster, and because I went faster when I should have stopped…
In other words, I am a crappy driver. To compensate for this failing, I try never to go outside my comfort zone. I have the routes to key places mapped out – the doctor, McDonalds, Wendy’s, the mall, Dunkin Donuts on Lincoln Rd, church, and the Fab5’s schools. Anywhere else? Forget it. I just dont go there. Except in case of dire emergencies.
The other day was one of those dire situations. Great-Nana was here from Samoa for hip-replacement surgery. She was out of hospital and invited us over for dinner. In Mt.Roskill. She may as well have been in the furthest reaches of Siberia. Because that’s how I felt about driving me and the Fab5 there. At night. But this was important. This was Great-Nana.
I did my research. I mapped it out on Google-Map. I wrote the directions down. I drove the route ‘virtually’ online. I picked out landmarks along the way. And then I went over it all on the computer again. And again. We set off into the wilderness. The Fab5 and I. Without being asked, Little Daughter prayed first on our behalf. I know that was supposed to make me feel better. But her quickness to appeal for divine help further confirmed what my gut was already telling me. This has the potential to be a night from hell…
Against all odds, we arrived safely at our destination. We had a lovely dinner with Great-Nana. We said goodbye and set off for home. Ha. It all went downhill from there.
Because I had neglected to do a very crucial thing. Google map myself travelling FROM Mt.Roskill BACK TO Te Atatu. Yeah, for SOME people retracing one’s steps is a simple thing. But not for a person suffering from navigational-directional-idiocy. I got lost. And it was dark so all the landmarks on my list? Couldn’t see ’em very well. Lost. Lost. Lost. No cellphone. No Hot Man to save me. Nothing. Just lost.
So there we were. One hopeless woman driver. And five children ranging in age from four to seventeen. Did I have a map? Yes, I had two. But I was having trouble figuring out which way the map should be pointing. I may have had it upside down. Big Son endeavoured to assist me with navigating. I may have yelled at him. (Blame the stress.) An hour later and we were still lost. The Bella Beast exclaimed, “Ooh look! We’re going to visit the Sky Tower!” Yes, it was true. We were in the city and the wonders of the sparkly Sky Tower were beckoning before us. I didn’t want to go to the Sky Tower. I wanted to pull over and cry. I felt the beginnings of a panic attack…what if we drive all night and never find our way home? What if the police notice I’m driving in circles and pull me over and find out I don’t have a proper NZ license and I get arrested? What if gangsters or the mafia spies or the triad assasins figure out I’m a lost loser and car-jack us and sell us all into slavery? What if the car engine blows up because it’s sick of being confused and we’re charred to a crisp? What if …you see how my brain works, don’t you? Thank goodness I write books, or else my imagination would drive me insane.
And then at that most emotionally fraught moment, Big Daughter decided to share her wisdom. Because of course she navigates for Christopher Columbus in her spare time. She says, “Dad said that the reason why you never know how to get somewhere is because you DONT WANT TO know. You don’t want to learn . You dont want to get better at driving.”
Very nicely, I said, “Thank you for your comments. Sometimes that may be true, I dont pay attention to where we are going BUT that does not apply at this time. On the way here, I was very careful and very observant because I was very worried about driving to a new place on our own. I went to GREAT LENGTHS to get this trip right.”
Any other child would have shut up at that moment. But not my child. She said, “We are not lost anyway. Dad said its impossible to ever get lost in Auckland. As long as we have a map, we can find our way no problem. Auckland is a very logically and straightforward planned city. Its easy to drive in Auckland.” Says the kid who’s never driven bloody anywhere. Ever.
I want to chuck her out of my lost car. I want to call her father in Samoa on my imaginary cellphone and yell at him for spreading such blatant
truths lies about me. I said, “You better be quiet.”
Alright I lie, I said, “You better shut up.”
Bella said, “Mum you said bad words!” I think Little Daughter started praying again.
Any other child would have shut up at that moment. But not my child. Big Daughter MUTTERS from the back seat, “Fine. But I’m telling you that we’re not lost and if I was navigating, I would prove it to you. And Dad was right – you have a mental block on purpose when it comes to directions…mutter mutter…” Muttering. It should be punishable by death. Dismemberment. Or at the very least – deserve 24hrs worth of tape on the mouth.
This time, I didnt want to chuck her out of my lost car. I wanted to smash her with my lost car. Thankfully, Big Son must have had similar feelings. He said, “Be quiet! You’re not helping at all. Can’t you see you’re making everything worse?”
My rage had one advantage. It killed the panic attack. I stopped hyper-ventilating and wanting to cry. Powered by anger, Big Son and I figured out where we were on the map. It took us two hours, but yeah, we finally got home. Alive. Safe. Un-lost.
I thanked Big Son for his navigational help. I thanked Little Daughter for her prayers. I thanked Little Son and Bella Beast for their patience. I told Big Daughter she needed to look up the definitions for “tact” and “diplomacy” and “sensitivity” and “effective communication”. And learn them. Practise them.
And then I called up the Hot Man in Samoa. And blasted him for having illegal conversations with Big Daughter about my crappy driving skills. He was sufficiently apologetic.
And then I told him about the horrors of being lost in Auckland. At night. With five kids. I recited all the possible horrors that could have happened to us. The fear, the panic, the tears..all the killers and car-jackers and muggers and assassins that COULD have got us.
He said, “Don’t be silly. You weren’t really lost. It’s impossible to be lost in Auckland.”
A fittng end to a night from hell.