I confess. I live a double life.
I have an uncanny ability to memorize the layout of a building within minutes are remember where rooms are located. I retain these "blue prints" for years it seems. I remember the layout of a childhood friend's house and I only visited her home once for a birthday party before she moved away. Stores, airports, restaurants, office buildings, hotels...I memorize it all. A useful trick at conferences.
However, there is another side of me. The side that couldn't find its way out of a paper sack in the dark with two hands, a flashlight, and a map. Don't ask me which direction is north from any given spot because I can't tell you. The same goes for the other directions. And, no, the sun's position doesn't help because unless I see it moving I can't tell west from east. I often confuse left and right turns and have to back track. It's frustrating, really.
So you're probably wondering if there's a point to all this. There is. But first, an example of my fabulous sense of direction:
Last Tuesday I left home for my weekly Citizen's Academy meeting with the Mobile Police Department. I hadn't been there in a couple of weeks because of Bouchercon and post-travel recovery time. The path to where the meetings are held is familiar so it doesn't give me trouble...with the exception that it's close to downtown and I never go downtown by myself. One way streets confuse the hell out of me so I avoid that area whenever possible.
The trouble began with I arrived for the meeting to discover no one was there. Because I had some jackass following too closely behind me I wasn't able to slow down and make a U-turn in the parking lot like I wanted. I decided I'd go to the next major street and make the block. Sounded like a good plan at the time. Heh...yeah...right....
I turned left at the next major street knowing I needed to make a left to get back to Government Street and from there back home. Unfortunately, the street I'd chosen didn't lead back to Government, at least not right away. I'm searching for Government Street and realize too late that I'd just crossed it. I'm now in the land of one way streets and have no freaking clue what street I'm on anymore. All I know is that the street lights are getting further apart and dimmer by the second. Buildings are boarded up and the general vibe of the area is not a good one.
So I find a place to make a U-turn and call Mark. Our conversation went something like this:
Me: "I'm freaking out! I'm lost in downtown!"
Mark: "Where are you now?"
Me: "How the hell should I know? I'm fucking lost!"
Mark: "What street are you on?"
Me: "I don't know."
Mark: *sigh* "Do you see any cross streets?"
Me: "They don't have signs that I see. Wait. Here's one.... *driving through intersection* Damn it! That was Government. Again!"
Mark: "Turn around and go back."
Me: "All call you back in a few. Got to making another 'youie'."
I turned around and drove back to Government. Got in the left turn lane. Light changes and I'm heading home....so I think.
If you've ever been to downtown Mobile you will know there are a few distinguishing landmarks. One is the newly built "skyscraper" with the unfinished looking top. (I don't know that official name of the building and honestly, don't really care.) Another landmark is the Bankhead Tunnel. I'm driving along Government and wondering why the skyscraper appears to be getting closer. If I'm heading west towards home, I shouldn't even see the damn thing. Now I'm utterly confused and to add to my confusion, I drive past the Bankhead Tunnel entrance. It finally dawns on me that I'm going the wrong direction.
Government Street literally runs into Water Street and your choices are left or right. I'm on the phone with Mark and waiting to turn right onto Water Street. The conversation goes something like this:
Me: "I went the wrong way. I'm turning right on Water Street now."
Mark: "Okay, you--"
Me: *sees a sign for I-10 East to Pensacola, Florida and a looming interstate on-ramp* "Crap! This is not what I wanted!" *quick turn onto Canal Street*
Mark: "What's going on?"
Me: "I can see I-10 but I can't get to it to go west. I'm on Canal Street. I think."
Mark: "Canal isn't going to take you--"
Me: *sees a 'No Outlet' sign* "Grrr! I fucking hate downtown!"
Mark: "Park somewhere and I'll come get you."
Me: "There are no street lights here. I'm not stopping. Hell no."
Mark: "Then what do you want me to do?"
Me: *making U-turn* "I'm heading back to Government. Once I get there, I can get home. I hope."
Once I finally was heading the right direction on Government Street, getting home was a snap. However, the whole ordeal was an hour of my life I'd rather have back. It certainly didn't enhance my love of driving downtown, and I mean downtown anywhere, not just Mobile. I had similar experiences when I lived in Denver, Colorado that didn't endear downtown Denver to my heart either. Then again, I also had similar experiences in both McComb and Brookhaven, Mississippi, and I grew up visiting those towns. I think any downtown area and I are destined for a rocky relationship.
So, now you're probably really wondering where my point is in this story. It's coming. Next post... ;-)