7:00 am this morning: A middle-aged man with long silver hair rolled down the driver’s side window of his equally silver Toyota Echo to talk to me. I pulled my headphones out and held them in the hand that wasn’t wrapped around Rodney’s leash.
I’ve been terrible with road directions my entire life, and I suffer a mild panic attack every time a stranger asks me for them. My brain just isn’t built to understand how maps work. I regularly get lost in the town I grew up in. Despite every fiber of my being wanting to divulge this fact to passers-by in need of help, I always stop and pretend I know what I’m talking about. I think I’m more afraid of someone thinking I’m retarded at first glance, than I am of attempting to give directions and actually proving I’m retarded. Nine times out of ten I can be useful. The tenth time, though? Not so much.
“Can you tell me how to get to Walker Bungalow?”
“I’m sorry, what was the name of that street again? I’ve never heard of it before.”
Speaking slowly as if I was wearing a helmet and bib, “Waaaaalker…Buuuungalooooow.”
“No, I have no idea, and I live in this neighborhood.”
*rolls eyes* “Alright, well how about Little Harbor Road? Sagamore? I’m trying to visit a yard sale.”
“Oh, I can get you to Sagamore. Take a left down this street, follow it to the end. Cross it and you’re on Sagamore.”
“So I take a left, go straight and then cross the street?”
“Left, straight, cross.”
“…yeah.” This was becoming less of a friendly stop, and more of a police interrogation.
No thank you, nothing. The man rolled up his window and drove away. I muttered “weirdo” under my breath and continued my walk. As I rounded the corner, the man was parked in the middle of the road, with his window down once again.
Furiously, “GOD DAMN IT, THE BRIDGE IS OUT!!!”
Pangs of guilt and anxiety ran up and down my chest. In my rush to help the man as best as I could and get him away from me, I completely blanked out about the bridge reconstruction project taking place smack dab in the middle of the directions I just gave him. “Shit, I’m sorry. I haven’t had a cup of coffee yet. Here, what you want to do is — ”
The man shook his head in disapproval and rolled his eyes like a petulant child for the second time. Seeing this, my anxiety and frustration slowly twisted themselves into a coping mechanism braid of irrational anger. I stopped talking, and silently stared at him for several seconds. It was all I could do to make known my disapproval of his attitude, without telling him he should spend his garage sale money on a TomTom, and hurling a plastic grocery bag filled with Rodney’s steaming shit through his open window. I already felt bad for accidentally giving the guy bad directions, but his expressed entitlement to good directions threw me for a loop, and set my mind to its endless task of analyzing everyday situations that desperately don’t need analyzing.
[Where is this guy coming from? Why is he giving me grief first thing in the morning? How can someone be so angry this early in the day? What’s with the salt and pepper Jonathan Taylor Thomas haircut? Is this guy a serial killer who preys on early birds that fail his quizzes? What kind of garage sale starts at 7:00 am, and why would someone be in such a rush to get there? Is he some kind of American Pickers guy? Is this the white trash version of Indiana Jones? Is he going to replace a commemorative Elvis Presley dinette set with a sack of nickles, and pray he doesn’t get crushed by a giant boulder?]
The man registered the look on my face, took a deep breath, and then rolled his finger in the almost cinematic “keep it moving” gesture.
“…Go all the way down this street, take a right. Go straight until you hit Summer Street. Take a right, and Miller will be directly across the intersection. Miller becomes Sagamore. It’s kind of roundabout, but it will get you around the bridge work.”
“Jesus Christ.” The man rolled his window up one last time, reversed and chirped his tires as he accelerated in the direction he first approached, his parting “ASSHOLE!” salutation muffled by the whine of his 1.5 liter economy motor.
“Eh, you’re probably right about that one. Come on, Rodney. Let’s go home and get you some breakfast.”