Admitting flaws has not always been my strong suit. When BrightSide and I first met, I was all Weaknesses? Who, me? (Because having a weakness means you’re inept, right? Ah, the idiocies of youth…) Nope, no weaknesses here. I am woman, hear me roar.
These days I can admit to my shortcomings. (BrightSide snorts.) Okay, sometimes I can admit my shortcomings…it gets a little easier to do with every passing year.
Even though I’ve gotten better at admitting when something’s not my forte there are few things I hate as much as being typecast, so I’ve shied away from saying this one out loud but…deep breath, it’s truth time…I’m bad at directions.
I apologize deeply to women everywhere for perpetuating this stereotype, but there’s just no denying it. I pretty much suck at the whole “finding a location” skill.
Case in point? Our family drove to Myrtle Beach twice a summer for at least eight years. For eight years I sat beside BrightSide while we hauled ourselves up and down the coast, the point being that I was physically present for that drive at least thirty-two times before deciding to plan a girls’ weekend there in the fall.
I had an epic panic attack when I realized I would be responsible for getting sista-friend and me to Myrtle. BrightSide was baffled – he’d been with me on all those other trips – but the thing was I hadn’t actually driven there. I’d been along for the ride. BrightSide’s a guy who automatically files away trip routes, so for him there’s no distinction between riding along and being behind the wheel. But since I had no muscle memory of making that drive, the thought of going without him made me freak.
The day MapQuest appeared on the internet was a glorious moment for me. You mean I can just get on a computer, type in where I’m going, and it will spit out directions telling me how to get there?! Hallelujah, amen.
Google maps bumped things up another notch, and then GPS arrived on the scene. Now that was progress. Not only would it show me an actual map (with my own car ON IT), but an honest-to-God voice would tell me the directions while I drove. I’d been saved.
GPS provided an excellent coping mechanism for getting from point A to point B, but it didn’t solve the underlying issue of my direction deficiency. (And as an observation, that thing where BS can sit in a car and point out WHICH DIRECTION IS NORTH? Insane.) When people asked me for directions I’d scrunch up my forehead, struggling to remember correct road names and adding in random landmarks.
“You turn at the light…it’s pretty much the first light you’ll come to…you know, at that place where you go right to get to the high school and on the left there’s an old gas station that’s gone out of business.”
Stellar stuff, that.
Clearly directions are one of my weaknesses. Another one is my auditory skills.
My kids learned early on that I’m visual – if they tried reading a homework problem out loud to me I’d squint, concentrating hard, and still end up with nothing. I’d literally say to my first grader, “Hey, seriously, I’m NOT an auditory learner. I’ve got to see the problem if you want me to help.”
And we make it work. To this day they know if they read something aloud they’ll have to read it at least three times, and even then they’ll still end up bringing it to me more than half the time.
In September I was thrown for a loop by my own kryptonite. One day last month a need for that aptitude for directions and good auditory skills collided in the perfect storm. Unfortunately, it happened at the kids’ school. In front of the assistant principal. While I was supposed to be in charge of getting a bus to its destination.
Bear’s room is a 4/5 combination class this year, and I’d agreed to take the fourth graders on a field trip so her teacher could stay at school to work with the other students. We were going to a nearby park for the Farm to Table event, a gathering that teaches students about agriculture in our community.
Field trip day started bright and early. I met the students in their classroom, collected the necessary forms, and got printed directions to give to the bus drivers. Once our kids were ready I took them out to load the buses. That’s when things started going downhill.
I want to be clear that I’d been to this particular park a number of times with my family. I knew where it was, I knew we would get there. But then several factors collided that basically scrambled my brain.
As we left the building I realized the assistant principal was waiting for us there. It’s funny – here I am, a competent 44-year-old entrusted with the welfare of fourteen students – and yet I did a stutter step. There’s something about people in authority (police officers, principals, and apparently assistant principals, too) that makes me nervous. If I’m ever taken in for questioning they’ll probably convict me based on my erratic behavior alone.
At any rate, the AP was helping students get onto their buses so I passed the drivers’ directions to him. He glanced over the paper before explaining I would be on the lead bus, which meant I was responsible for making sure everyone arrived at the destination. (Again, I’ve been to this park. I KNOW WHERE IT IS. I still have no idea why I froze like I did.)
Since I was charged with directing the bus driver the AP started reviewing driving directions with me. That moment right there was my kryptonite – having to demonstrate an aptitude for directions while using auditory skills. Crap.
This very nice man was going over the directions he would use instead of the printout: “I’d go up 54, turn left onto ___, then right onto ___. And you know where that road intersects with 87? This says go straight, but I’d turn left and drive 87 until you reach ___.” By that point my eyes were opened wide, staring up and to the left as I tried desperately to visualize the route he was describing. It was when he said, “…and then there’s that sawmill…” that I realized I was done. D-O-N-E.
I couldn’t even fake being able to follow whatever the hell he was saying to me at that point, and I could suddenly see in his eyes serious concern about whether I would actually reach the park at all. Bless his heart, he offered to get in his car and lead the buses himself.
Me: (confused) You’re coming on the field trip, too?
AP: No, but I’d be happy to lead you over if you’d like.
Okay, I was now officially humiliated by my inadequacy, and I started heartily reassuring him that I absolutely did know where the park was, that I’d been there several times, they even have those brown signs leading you to the damn thing so we were definitely going to get there, no problem whatsoever, don’t give it another thought.
The AP looked just a little hesitant as he agreed, reassuring me that the other teacher had his number and we should call if we needed him. (Short of a driver having a heart attack or the bus bursting into flames, there was no way in hell we were using that number.)
Dealing with directions? Okay, I can probably do that. Processing information orally? That one’s tougher, but maybe if I concentrate hard enough and they don’t throw too much at me…
But both of them together? Kryptonite, baby.