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Road Trip

Maybe you've heard this one before. When I was in fifth grade a friend invited me to go on vacation with her family, but not during a school break. My parents permitted me to miss a week of school and we had a blast, a trip I'll never forget. Maybe more because of what happened after the trip. When I returned to school the following week, my world was turned upside down. My teacher had decided to rearrange our desk grouping configuration and I found myself seated next to three different students than I was seated with before the trip. Now, mind you, there were only 12 or so kids in my whole class (grades 5 & 6 combined) and it wasn't like I didn't know my three new desk buddies. It was that something had happened out of my control.

After a sour morning dealing with the change and scowling through math and story time, I was determined to get back my old buddies. I stayed behind at recess to talk to the teacher. Do you ever have a taste or smell memory? This one is mine. I was eating a butterscotch rollup when Mrs. TeacherFromHell told me there was no way that I could change my desk around and that I needed to stop being such a baby. I remember, like it was yesterday, the taste of the rollup and crumbling it into a sticky ball and throwing it into the trash.

I don't like things to happen out of my control. Never have. Never will. I'm nervous and sensitive. I'm that kid in the movie Parenthood who loses his retainer at Chucky Cheese and cries when he can't ever catch the ball during the baseball game.

After the butterscotch rollup day, my mom helped me find control in my day by creating a daily schedule. I couldn't deal with going to school unless I knew what to expect. Every morning, I diligently crafted a chart: 9-10Math, 10-10:15Recess, 10:15-11:30Reading, 11:30-12:30Lunch&Recess, etc. etc. Lucky for me, I am now able to use my Outlook calendar and daily planner to look organized and not neurotic.

You read, last week, about my trip preparation rituals, so this is likely no surprise to you. This week, I made a trip to Boston for work. I agonized over transportation. Should I drive to Albany and take a bus? Should I rent a car? Where will I park? What if it snows? Should I get an all-wheel drive car? Should I park at the commuter rail station? What if the lot is full when I get there? Where would I go?

After 48 hours of painful decision making for me and my poor co-worker who had to talk it through with me, I decided to rent an SUV and drive into the city. My friend loaned me her GPS to help me navigate. I printed out two versions of directions, one from the site of the place I was going and one from Mapquest. I also brought two maps.

The day of the trip I placed everything in the car as I needed it: tissues on the seat next to me. Coffee in the cup holder. Map and directions on the seat next to me. Cell phone in the extra cup holder. Seat adjusted. Heat adjusted. Mirrors adjusted. Then, I plugged in the GPS. "Turn right onto Main Street," the lady says to me. Ding, ding, the GPS tolls happily as I turn right onto Main Street. So far, so good.

I only pulled over twice on the Mass Pike to review the maps and tried to memorize the two sets of directions. I played with the GPS because I wanted to see if it would show me the turn-by-turn list to my destination but no such luck. It would only give me the very next step. Thirty miles from the city, my palms started to sweat. What if the GPS told me to take a different turn from the printed directions? What would I do?

My worst fear was realized as I entered the city limits. "Exit left. Allston/Cambridge in .5 miles," the nice lady told me calmly. "What do you mean?" I asked her, "The directions say go to 93N/3N and take exit 26 to Storrow Drive."

Shit. Shit. Shit. What do I do? I took a deep breath, brushed my sweaty palms on my pants and exited to the left: Allston/Cambridge. Good bye my trusted paper directions. Ding, ding, the GPS tolled, telling me I was a good girl. We seemed ok for about 10 seconds until she told me to take another right, which I did. But then, I was across the river from where I wanted to be! This couldn't be right! I had to do something and fast! "Take a right in .3 miles," GPS stays calm and steady. Seems we are on course in her opinion.

"Oh yeah- I'll show you!" I rant as I illegally drive straight through the intersection.

The GPS is quiet for 30 seconds. Maybe she's mad at me. "Rerouting. Do a legal U-Turn at the next intersection."

"Screw you, lady!" I take a sharp left, cutting off the guy behind me.

"Rerouting. Take a right in .2 miles."

For the next ten minutes the GPS and I go back and forth. On one turn I listen to her and the next, I go my own way. She never raises her voice. Never tells me I'm an idiot. Never reminds me of that trip six years ago to Philly when I crossed over the Ben Franklin bridge four times. She calmly reroutes me time after time.

Twice I pull over and start walking down the street to confirm the next turn. Once I pull over at a construction zone to ask the cop for directions. I think both me and the GPS were relieved to hear her say, "Arrive at destination."

Now, how do I get into the parking garage? Do I hit the button? What if it doesn't open? Where do I park? How will I get out? Sorry TeacherFromHell. Some of our inner babies just never grow up.

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