|"Hey, what joker moved the steering wheel?"|
I had everything planned so carefully for our first trip to England. From the places we would visit in London, to the driving directions to our timeshare condominium in the Midlands, to everything we wanted to see in the seaside village of Rye, we thought we had reduced, if not eliminated, all the uncertainties involved in visiting a foreign country. So, after arriving at Heathrow Airport, we battled through jetlag for two-and-a-half days as we visited the places in London we most wished to see, wandering the world famous city afoot, and aided by their bus and underground train systems. Then we rented a car and ventured onto the roads of England.
According to Google Maps, our drive to the English Midlands would take a few hours. As we could not check in at our condo until late afternoon, we had planned a few interesting stops along the way. The first was the village of Pinner, where one of our favorite English sitcoms, May to December, was set.
Our research had prepared us when it came to basic navigation, such as what side of the road to drive on, and recognizing the speed limit signs. It was the roundabouts that tripped us up. Unlike intersections, roundabouts presented us with a variety of perplexing options. Sometimes the road we needed, according to our Google Map directions, might be painted on the asphalt of the particular exit we needed to take. Or there might be a sign that showed which turnoff we wanted. But two, three, four, or more streets can adjoin the same roundabout, and each of those intersecting streets separate before they join the roundabout, so you have to be doubly careful when counting each potential turnoff.
When we came across simple intersections, we looked for street signs. Sometimes we spotted the street name on a sign affixed to a fence at knee or waist level, but only after we were nearly through the intersection. Or they were placed along a building farther down the street, visible only after we had passed through the intersection. Or they simply weren’t there. Not that we found many intersections. For the most part, we encountered roundabouts. This was an aspect of British life that had seemed so quaint and endearing when we were at home, relaxing in our living room and enjoying our beloved TV shows. In real life, we found them anything but relaxing.
Google Maps had estimated a fifteen-to-twenty minute drive until we reached Pinner. After half-an-hour, we realized that we had taken several wrong turns along the way, and had no idea where we were. So we attempted to reverse our course as best we could. But each roundabout is only a link in a chain, and each link will only tell you how to get to the next one, most of which weren’t listed in my driving instructions. On those rare occasions when we navigated our way back through roundabouts we recognized, we still couldn’t figure out where or how we had diverted from the printed instructions.
We had planned on a fun, picturesque drive. We had hoped to find several meaningful locations where we could connect with the British TV shows we loved. Instead, after more than an hour, we were driving in circles (literally), frustrated, exhausted, and utterly confused by an onslaught of choices that didn’t correspond with the journey we had so carefully planned before leaving home. But life is never as hopeless as it seems, and soon we would receive aid from a source we would never have anticipated.
Feeling lost in your journey right now? Stick to your course, and keep looking for a source of help. Life might just surprise you.
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