I possess no sense of direction. It doesn't matter if I'm walking down Lexington Avenue in New York City -- which is wide and clearly marked with numbered side streets that are just far enough away that I have to squint -- or ambling along Lake Michigan in Chicago trying to remember if I live north or south of where I'm standing.
It doesn't matter if I'm careening down a semi-paved road out in King George, Va., with directions that include the words "turn by the big oak" in an older forest of trees as I quickly scan the passing leaves and hope that the renowned big oak is somehow obviously outstanding.
It doesn't even matter if the labyrinth I'm traveling in is underground and made up of a byzantine collection of subway entrances underneath Times Square,some of which are closed for repairs only adding to the game-show atmosphere.
I'm going to get turned around and walk or drive the wrong way for awhile.
This is a given, and even knowing that, I am convinced each and every time that I'm headed in the right direction.
It happened again the other night on the way to watch fire dancing down by the lake to celebrate the full moon. Fire dancing in Chicago. You can see why I had to go check it out.
Too much chatting with my friend, Cindy, and we had passed our stop. The bus driver asked how long I'd been in Chicago, which I think was her way of trying to figure out if I was new or slow. "Two weeks?" she said. "Oh, you don't know no better."
We were the only passengers left on the bus as the driver stepped down and said resolutely, "Follow me." Cindy glanced back a couple of times at the running bus glowing behind us, muttering to herself something about no one taking the bus. At the light, our driver put out her arm and stopped us from even thinking about crossing against the light. "Y'all don't know no better," she said.
We crossed the street with her as a bus whizzed by and our driver, because by now we thought of her as our driver, flagged down her coworker who looked a little startled as he pulled over. "Put them off at Foster. Foster, Foster," she repeated. "They don't know no better."
We thanked our bus driver as she marched back toward the waiting bus. "That's great service," said Cindy. I wasn't completely surprised. My profession has sent me out on countless journeys to places I've never been before where I've gotten completely turned around and lost.
Somehow, I've always ended up where I needed to be with a few interesting detours where I meet some great people, if only for a moment. This one also included a young man on the bus who asked a lot of questions. We found out he thought we might be potential love matches for his grandpa. I wanted to know what grandpa used to do before he retired and were there any pictures? James, the grandson, said he'd Facebook friend us and provide more details.
Now, when I'm lost I'm never concerned, and if it's gotten really hairy, I let go of the time factor because, at some point, it's completely out of my hands. That's another great metaphor for the rest of life.
I have an idea of how I'd like things to go and where I think I'm headed. But if I can let go of the notion that it has to end up someplace in particular and the journey has to look a certain way, then it all actually turns out quite a bit better. I'm not in charge and that's the good news.
The whole recent episode that was chronicled in the column of putting everything in storage and figuring out where to live next had a lot of opportunities for me to be churning up angst or adventure.
Maybe all my years of wandering have served me well because I saw that lamenting was pointless and hoped instead for at least a good time. I ended up reconnecting with old friends before moving to a great town. I suppose that our bus driver was right. I don't know any better, so I let go and allowed something bigger to lead the way. Works like a charm. More adventures to follow.
Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at Martha@caglecartoons.com.