Friday, February 8, 2008

Yesterday: Good Grief

I knew I had fully acclimated to the driving conditions in England when, early yesterday morning after I woke up briefly for a bathroom break, I was drifting off to sleep and I began to dream that I was driving toward my house in Obergeckler, Germany. I was just at the point where I was in the midst of the tall, stately windmills, with the emerald green hills sloping gracefully around me. It was early morning in my dream, the sun just breaking over the horizon. I felt peaceful and happy, and I likely wouldn't have remembered having dreamt this, except that I was yanked back to consciousness as I noted that I was driving on the left side of the road!

So far I haven't had any trouble with staying in the left lane, though we were warned in driving class that drunk or extremely tired Americans will drift into the right lane because it's what feels normal subconsciously. Let's hope I don't meet up with any of these people as I dutifully stay on the left side of the road.

Staying on the "wrong" side of the road is one thing, finding my way around is entirely another. Some people are born beautiful, smart, talented, or with a distinctive sense of direction. On the other hand, some are as "ugly as the side of a barn" (as Pastor Clear, God rest his soul, once told me), a few Pepsis shy of a Heather (or a cup of tea short of a Reese), dull as a crossword puzzle (sorry all you crossword puzzle fans), and with no more sense of direction as a blind, deaf, lame dog in a thousand square mile maze. That last one there- the poor soul without a sense of direction- that's me. Feel free to question Holly or Heather about my sense of direction; Holly saved my compass-deprived bum several times as we wandered around Germany when they visited last fall. No kidding, I walk into a store in a mall and don't know which way I came from when I walked in. It isn't uncommon for me to walk all the way to one end of a mall to see if that's where I parked, only to have to walk all the way back to the other end. I'm hopeless; certainly not a candidate for tour guide or nature walker, and certainly not fighter pilot as I would assuredly bomb our allies.

You can imagine my sense of depressed resignation when Tim insisted I go from one base to the one we're staying on to meet the kids after school. I wasn't panicked; I surrendered to the inevitable. I was about to get really, really lost. Tim had a few more stops to make on base before leaving and I'd be late to meet the kids if I delayed, so off I went.

First, I wandered around the base, looking for the exit. There were signs all over the place for the commissary, the BX, the library, the community center, the gas station, the shoppette, you name it, but no signs for the exits. There are a complex series of roundabouts that take you all over, and I went around several of them over and over, in circles, trying to decide where to go. Finally, I ended up on a road that left me nowhere to go but out; there were those tire-puncturing spikes pointing the same way I was driving so, even though I didn't know where I was at this exit, it was my only choice.

You might be thinking, Why don't you own a navigation system? Well, we do, but it's new and I don't know how to work it. Still, I pulled over right after exiting the base and dug out the navigator that was designed for people like me. I managed to seek out the base I wanted in the history, but I couldn't change the view. All I saw was a map, sideways, of the route I was to take. But the soothing voice of Jason was there, directing me forward, so off I went.

About half a mile down the road, I was directed to take a right turn. It was an unmarked intersection with only a few houses on the road. As I traveled on the houses disappeared and I found myself on a tiny, one lane, dirt road in the middle of two huge fields. As we bumped along The Boys rattled from the back seat, "Wh-wh-what-t-t- ar-r-r-e w-w-w-e-e-e-e d-d-d-doing-g-g?" I plowed on. After a mile (maybe two), I made a left turn along yet another one lane road, only this one ran down the middle of gnarled trees and vines that bent in on the road. Very creepy. At the end of that road, I made another right and continued on past a couple of abandoned houses and barns, through a couple of other huge fields, past cows and ponies, and finally entering a roundabout that took me back into civilization. The navigation system apparently was taking me on the shortest route, without consideration for potholes or lane size. Even as I approached the base, it tried to have me turn down little country roads that certainly led me in the general direction of the base, but not at an approved entrance where I am required to show my military id. I had a mental picture of sitting in my car staring at a high fence and Jason soothingly telling me to carry on.

The real bummer came as I pulled into the hotel parking lot. Not only were Sean and Kristine waiting for me, but Tim was immediately behind me. He had finished all his errands at the other base and still managed to arrive at the same time as me. To quote my sometimes soulmate Charlie Brown, "Good grief."

God is urging me right now to bloom where I'm planted, with the abilities and lack thereof that he gave to/withheld from me. There's no sense in beating myself up over it, eh?


  1. These posts as of late - actually all of them are so entertaining. I just smile,and smile while reading your adventures. Good grief, not only is everything so new to you, but now you have to learn to drive differently!

    I've had one of those, getting lost on a country road all the while heading further, and further away from civilization. Until the road becomes gravel, potholed, and I've passed a tractor. :)

    It gets really bad when I am just going on a typical errand and my kids chime from the back seats, "Mom are we lost?" Are we late?" :)

    Hang tough! You ARE doing great! Remember you are not an alien. :)

    Have you happened to read the book, "After the boxes are unpacked?" This book often shares of how to "Bloom where you are planted".

  2. I have After The Boxes Are Unpacked, in a box somewhere between here and Germany, but I haven't read it yet. I got it a couple of years ago in anticipation of my next move. I was planning to read it when I settled in; thanks for the reminder!

    Today at the English teapot shop, the nice British salesperson asked if my debit card was a "chip and pin." I hesitated, then told her I didn't know what that was! LOL! I AM AN ALIEN!!! (She explained that it's a feature in British credit cards that requires a PIN to match the computer chip in the card. She laughingly told me that it did sound strange if one didn't know what it was!)

    We all speak English here, but American-English is much different than English-English!

    :) Reese

  3. My gosh! What a day! I am always so impressed of your ability to find your way, despite being directionally challenged! It's pretty bad when someone from the states (who has never set foot in Germany before) has to show the person who has lived there for four years where to go :) LOL! I don't know how anyone can find their way on those chaotic little back roads of Germany. You are so brave to step out of your box like that and just go...I would have been petrified. When you are in that situation again..just call my Uncle Bob, he'll help you find your way! LOL!


  4. Okay..and, this was too good not to comment: a few Pepsis shy of a Heather (or a cup of tea short of a Reese)

    At first I was like "hey!"..and, then I got it and thought..."that's really funny!". I think I'm a few Pepsis shy of a Heather today!