Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Back-roading It by Sharon Lurie

© 2011 David's Harp and Pen

Mood: Slow

DISCLAIMERS: This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or background of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional, so I don’t want to hear from Garmin or any other GPS manufacturer accusing me of advocating the abandonment of the technology. Being regularly directed to drive into ditches and large bodies of water is quite a thrill and much cheaper than going to the amusement park.

I have a great sense of direction and enjoy navigation quite a bit. In fact, many of my female friends have complained on occasion that I give directions like a man. For me, learning to both find my way and give clear and concise directions to others has always been a top priority.

As a child, I had a healthy fear of getting lost, and anyone who knows my family knows exactly why. I have chilling memories of waking up in the car at 2 AM in the bowels of Bayonne, New Jersey because Mom had gotten horribly lost getting from North Arlington, New Jersey to Clifton. For those unfamiliar with New Jersey geography, it is simply a matter of pointing the car northwest and driving eight miles. Instead, Mom pointed the car southeast and drove 12. Dad and my brother were no better, and so I taught myself at a very early age to read maps (and always remember where the car was parked).

I am 50% Jewish, 25% Norwegian, and 25% Syrian. My mom and brother would always brag about what exemplary navigational skills the Vikings had, even though that trait never seemed to manifest itself in my mom or my brother’s ability to get from point A to point B. I found out just recently that the Vikings actually had atrocious senses of direction, and the only reason they made all those great discoveries like Greenland and Minnesota was because they got horribly lost trying to get to some place else. (In their defense, however, they are the best pillagers, pirates, and mass murderers, hands down.) I am also sure my crack seafaring dexterity couldn’t possibly come from the Jewish genes, seeing as it took my forebears over 40 years to get the 200 some odd miles from Egypt to Canaan, a plotting faux pas not even my immediate family or Mr. MaGoo can top. Therefore, given the Biblical accounts of swift invasions and constant back and forths between Israel and their neighboring nations, I must conclude my penchant for helmsmanship must come from the Syrians.

Back in 2007, a friend introduced me to the world of GPS. He said the days of maps and Trip-tiks were over, that I could save myself time, hassle, and trunk space in my car by ditching my map collection and going digital, and so I did. I traded my map box for a smart phone with Google maps. Yes, it was easy, and fun, and for the most part, a time-saver. However, the time it saved me cost me something else in the process.

Last week, a friend invited me over for breakfast in Mount Juliet, a little bedroom community about 15 miles northeast of my home in Nashville, Tennessee. I had just come back from New Jersey after the quick and unexpected death of my mother, so I was feeling a little nostalgic. I broke out a paper map I had of Davidson County and some of the bordering cities. Going against the GPS instructions for the fastest, most efficient route, I took a slightly longer, more circuitous way with my old friend propped up on my steering wheel. Tennessee State Road 171 goes right over Percy Priest Lake, and I’m sorry to say in the almost 11 years I have lived in Nashville, and especially in the 2.5 years I have lived so close to this gorgeous marvel, this was the first time I had taken the time to drive past it and really look at what it was. I had been so busy with life, and then with Mom’s death, that I really needed to take time out for beauty, and that beauty, gave me the strength I needed to persevere.

Technology, for me, has always been a double-edged sword. My GPS lets me travel faster, but as a result, I often miss the important lessons and flashes of inspiration that only come from the road less travelled. My cell phone provides me with the convenience of staying in constant connection with the world, but it also serves as a constant distraction, especially during the times when what I need the most is distance from the world. My electronic address book gives me the option of sending calls from certain numbers directly to voicemail, so I have the choice to deal with certain people on my time table. However, it causes me to miss a lot of opportunities to love sometimes difficult but hurting people, resulting in me missing the lessons of making my life about others and not myself.

I am glad I broke out my maps again. I am glad I am now taking the extra time to plan out where I go and how I get there, instead of letting a piece of mechanics and microchips decide for me. There is a time and place for efficiency and getting places fast, but there is also a time and place for back-roading it, and letting the roads less travelled show me beauty seldom seen and wisdom often overlooked.



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