Tuesday, October 19, 2010


What on earth has happened to me? I used to be able to find my way anywhere. Now I spend most of the time in my car groaning and cursing – as if I’m labor again.

I had to be at the courthouse for jury duty today at 8:15. The trip is less than 10 miles. Still, it’s rush hour and it’s Newark, so I left myself plenty of time: 45 minutes for a 20-minute trip. I walked into the building close to 9 o’clock. Forty-five minutes LATE. I hate being late. Even for jury duty.

I conscientiously followed the directions on the Summons mailer. There was a bit of highway traffic that set me back some, but I was still looking at an 8:30 ETA. Then I got to the parking lots. There was a sign that said Juror Parking with an arrow into a lot and a long, long line of cars waiting to make the turn in. Then there was ANOTHER sign that said Jurors with an arrow pointing straight ahead (and NO line of cars). So I followed THAT sign.

The Summons directions said once I got on a particular road to just follow the Juror Signs. And that’s exactly what I did. The next thing I know I’m passing the courthouse entirely, frantically looking for more Juror Signs. There were none. What there were, though, were signs at every intersection prohibiting me from making a left turn so I could make my way back to the courthouse. Blocks and blocks I went, deeper and deeper into downtown Newark until finally I was able to get myself around a block, facing the other direction, so I could make my way back to the courthouse.

Too late. I was already disoriented. It wasn’t a straight shot, and I soon found myself in new, unfamiliar territory.

This never used to happen to me. I would read directions and get where I needed to go. That now feels like the exception, not the rule.

It probably seems like I’m a good candidate for a GPS system. I have one. I consider it my arch-enemy. It’s a factory-installed system that fails me almost 100% of the time. I’m certain that there’s some default setting deep within the bowels of its programming that first selects The Ghetto Route for every requested destination. I’ve discovered more blighted and decrepit neighborhoods in using my navigator than I’d ever known even existed in North Jersey. And if that’s not bad enough (which, in my opinion, it definitely is) the little bulls-eye on the screen rarely bears any resemblance to the place I’m trying to go. It will get me in the general vicinity, but that’s about it. Once, on a trip to the Boston area, I was trying to get to a hotel and it kept chirping “Destination on left,” when all that was on the left was a trash-strewn lot. We were miles from the hotel. Miles.

So even though I was late and panicked, I resisted the urge to punch in the address of the courthouse. Instead I did what I used to do in the old days: I found a street cop to ask directions. I pulled up just ahead of him and left my car running as I walked back to where he stood. He knew I was lost. He knew I was a loser. I didn’t even get three feet from my car before he yelled to me, “Where are you trying to get to, Ma’am? Jury duty?”

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