When was the last time you got lost? Was it an enjoyable experience, or a stressful one? Tell us all about it.)
We hadn’t lived in the southeastern corner of Pennsylvania very long. We lived about 45 minutes north of Philadelphia, which the natives consider to be “out in the country.” The roads here twist and turn and go around themselves, and they can be very confusing to a midwestern girl who grew up where everything was divided into sections with miles of straight, broad road stretching out to the horizon. But Philadelphia itself? Well, I’m convinced it was created just to keep us furriners out of the way. Really.
It’s what you don’t see that drives you crazy. One-way streets all OVER the place. Potholes. Two-lane streets with four lanes of cars occupying them. Huge city buses, never mind delivery trucks of all sizes. Messengers on bikes. Skaters. Walkers. Hoardes of them. Sigh.
An opportunity to hear a speaker I was interested in had come up. I invited four friends to go, and I volunteered to drive. Creepers. What was I thinking? The conference was in Virginia. Amazingly, we got there with no problem at all. We were on time, we hadn’t had any car trouble, things were going swimmingly.
Two days and several hours of sitting, listening, and eating, and we were ready for the return trip. We did just fine until we came to the place just south of the city where the signs make a feeble attempt to direct you to I-95. Now, keep in mind that this took place in maybe 1976. All the improvements (I use the word loosely) that we have now hadn’t been made yet. It was like unraveling a huge pile of knotted-up yarn to navigate the turns, unless you were familiar and very brave. I was neither.
Several miles and lots of perspiration later, I’ll never know how it happened, but we were on the Schuylkill Expressway. Out here, we call it the “Sure-kill.” (The right way to say it, if you’re interested, is school-kull.)
By now it was fully dark, and I was completely terrified. Terry had specifically warned me about getting the right exit, or I’d end up right where I was. Hoo boy. Talk about white-knuckles! Only two of my co-travelers were familiar with our position, and they calmly misdirected me a couple of times. We drove through dark, gorgeous neighborhoods as well as dark, not-so-gorgeous neighborhoods. We were all scared, all trying to act as if we weren’t. Except for me. I didn’t care. I just wanted to get OUT of there!
Finally, finally, I saw an exit for a route I knew would take us out of the city and into the northern suburbs. My relief was so great I actually cried. We stopped at what I hoped was a safe gas station and I used a pay phone to call Terry. All our husbands had been on the phone with each other by this time, because we were several hours later than we should have been. Terry calmed me down, gave me brief and specific directions for getting home, and even complimented me on making it out of the maze with no damage to the car. The only damage was to my nerves, which were completely shot. I was numb, which was probably a good thing.
I gassed up the car and off we went, five travelers on a journey none of us would ever forget.