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Miss Direction

hey, not all those who wander are lost (almost)

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Beth Czech

My wife is so good with directions it frightens me. On the other hand, I’m so bad with directions it frightens her.

If you were to superglue a blindfold onto my wife’s eyeballs, throw her into a helicopter, fly her into the heart of the Amazonian jungles, lower her into the thicket via harness and cable and say, “You need to be home by 8pm to kiss the kids goodnight,” she would be home by 5pm with some groceries and yarn for a new scarf she wants to knit.

If you were to do the same thing with me, I’d probably stand there listening to the helicopter fly away with a big dumb smile on my face because helicopters are awesome. I have no idea how to get anywhere. Seriously, ask me which way is north. Go on, ask me.

I just pointed south-east. Or so I’m told.

You know how great Olympic athletes develop muscle memory to execute their routines? I’m just like that! Except instead of spending a decade in training to achieve world-class physical excellence, I took too many trips to Oakwood Mall for Dippin’ Dots.

Don’t even get me started on driving places. Honestly, I’m surprised my wife lets me drive her anywhere. I grew up in Eau Claire, yet I often drive in the absolute opposite direction of where we’re going. For some strange reason, this really annoys her. I think it physically hurts her brain if we’re going the wrong way.

You know how scientists have yet to understand a bird’s sense of direction and how they are able to find a certain swamp halfway around the world? They think it’s got something to do with the Earth’s magnetic field. Also, they think my wife may have trained them.

The driving thing is kind of a sore subject between us. Personally, I think arriving at your destination is overrated. I try to remind her that it’s the journey that really matters, and that not all those who wander are lost! She usually counters with something stupid like, “I agree with you Mike, but our parent-teacher conference started 10 minutes ago and you’ve driven us to Thorp.”

My brain’s biggest glitch is that, throughout my early driving life here in Eau Claire, I only ever drove to maybe six basic places around town. And five of those locations required the use of Clairemont Avenue for part of the trip. These were formative years, so now I have this urgent, instinctual need to drive to Clairemont before going anywhere else. I feel lost without that big, dumb avenue.

You know how great Olympic athletes develop muscle memory to execute their routines? I’m just like that! Except instead of spending a decade in training to achieve world-class physical excellence, I took too many trips to Oakwood Mall for Dippin’ Dots.

However! While I’m quick to admit the ridiculous proportions of my driving ineptitude, I’m quick to point out that, as far as driving around Eau Claire is concerned, it hardly matters.

Many of you may wish to fight me over it, but I will stand by this conviction: No matter what, it will never take you more than 20 minutes to get anywhere in Eau Claire. And that’s a generous time estimate. So if you are in Eau Claire, and you start driving to some other place in Eau Claire – barring traffic accidents, demonic automobile possession, or a tornado lofting your car into the river – you will arrive in 20 minutes or less.

I hear people complain about “rush hour” as if that’s actually a thing in the Chippewa Valley. Some people can’t handle road construction and detours. Other people angrily analyze the traffic light timing on Farwell Street as if they hold an advanced degree in street design. I have two words for these people:

Twenty. Minutes.

Leave 20 minutes early and you’ll be fine. And hey, maybe learn to sit at a stoplight for more than 60 seconds before you totally freak out. If your car is equipped with some manner of music reproduction device, perhaps you could play some favorite tunes to help pass the time. It’ll be like taking a short road trip with your favorite recording artists! You can pretend Beyoncé or Mr. Neil Diamond is sitting in the passenger’s seat giving you a private concert! Or you could just chill the hell out.

Now, to be clear, you’ll never see my wife freaking out in local traffic. Because she’s probably already home.

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