I got lost today.
I had to drive what google maps called an hour to go to a Christmas reunion party. I had been anticipating the event all week, as I would be seeing friends that I hadn’t seen in about three months. I planned my hair and makeup (to coordinate, of course) but as the event drew near, the number of people attending according to Facebook, dropped. From seven to five to four. I began to wonder if I should stay home, but I felt like a jerk bailing because everyone else did.
So I decided to stay the course. My gut was urging me otherwise.
On the way there, I got lost. My printer is broken so I had to write the directions by hand. I have neither a smart phone nor GPS in my car, so the notes and an old map were my only guides. When I was an hour into the journey, I began to feel I had missed a turn. Sure enough, when I pulled over and read the map, I was a few towns north of my destination. I planned a route into town and called my friends for more specific details. I got to the party an hour late, flustered.
I originally planned to leave at 11, but decided to duck out at 10:15 instead. I’m glad I did.
I’m generally good with retracing my routes. Once I’ve driven somewhere, the way back is always easy. I can do it from memory. So I headed out, feeling bad for leaving early, sure I had the way home laid out.
As I drove down the dark road, I saw the flashing lights of police vehicles ahead. The light traffic became dense. Finally, I saw a blockade. I was made to turn around in an unfamiliar town. I followed the cars in front of me until I got on a road I felt I could navigate. But in the dark at 11 at night, panic is easier to find.
When I didn’t hit the highway, I started to feel sick. I called my boyfriend and had him google my location. He wasn’t being fast enough and I kept loosing connection. Suddenly, I was in the woods, no street lights to illuminate whatever waited.
The hiccups struck. They were the loud, painfully strong kind. This is my way of hyperventilating. When I got a hold of my navigator again, I urged him to look faster. Street signs were morphing into monstrous figures.
I eventually made it to a well-lit, familiar highway. I got home safely, but it was the worst drive I’ve ever had. I’ve been lost before, but never where I felt unsafe. Perhaps I panicked because I was tired. Perhaps because of the dark. I’m not sure.
What is it about darkness that distorts the world? Humans seem to be so dependent on the sense of sight. We describe colors before smells, shapes before sounds. I learn best visually. With the veil over my surroundings, I could not understand the world my little car was taking me through.
I’m not certain there’s much to take away from the experience. I know I want a smart phone. I did not like the feeling of being helpless and alone (I’m sure there’s plenty of psychology in that statement). I already knew that being tired does bad things to my mental stability. Darkness may be the theme of the night. Not knowing. Why do we fear what we do not know? In daylight, getting lost isn’t so bad. It’s an adventure. But an unfamiliar path by dark breeds a world of worst case scenarios. Was there something hidden in the blackness that could have been beautiful?