The Joys of Getting Lost

Diane Oh/New University

The door slammed shut as my fellow traveler got into my car. An ordinary UC Irvine story: a 10-minute drive to Fashion Island was in store and that was going to be the end of that.

That 10-minute drive turned into a two-hour odyssey under circumstances that would only make sense in some buddy comedy.

Pulling out of her driveway, the two of us were filled with the utmost confidence. We were equipped with all of the right materials: a GPS in one hand and Google Maps directions in another, with our cell phones guarding our backs. We were dressed in our finest for the banquet we were about to attend, and my passenger had at least a vague notion of where we were heading. I, however, was a relative stranger to the area, so my wheel was basically in her hands.

In our day and age, being prepared is akin to already being at your destination before you even get there. Especially with the growth in technology, there is no reason not to have every step of the way planned for you, whether it be where to eat one day or how to impress that person you’ve had your eye on the next.

Or how to get to Fashion Island.

We’d left a half-hour early to ensure we’d be among the first to reach the banquet. So far, everything was going according to plan.

Then, for some unknown reason that could only be described in cinematic terms as “the plot hole,” we decided to ignore Google and go with our guts, that primal thing that has helped us survive for centuries, which told my passenger that it was giving us the wrong directions.

But wrong turn begat wrong turn. The clock on my dashboard jumped ahead minutes then half-hours. Our phones started ringing with the worried voices of our fellow banquet-goers asking how in the world we hadn’t arrived there in 10 minutes.

“We don’t know where we are!” we cried into the speakerphone. Google Maps was unforgiving of our actions and decided to remain useless for the rest of the journey and the Tom Tom … well, let’s just say he was getting senile for an older model.

After driving aimlessly, hoping for that cross-street Google Maps had earlier described to come into view like a lighthouse’s beacon of light, we decided to do things the way that had helped our forefathers succeed so many times before us: we stopped and asked for directions.

At the first fast-food joint we saw, my compatriot hopped out in all her finery to ask the cashier where we were and, just as fast, came out with hastily scribbled directions/hieroglyphics on the surely smug Google Maps.

“We’re in Santa Ana.”

Unfortunately, the cashier couldn’t articulate very well how to get back to Irvine. Nor could the cashier in the nearby grocery store. Nor could the couple in the home improvement store parking lot.

By this time, the both of us had received many a frantic call from the restaurant, and we were definitely beyond what the word “late” could encompass. We ended up having to order our entrees through the phone, so at least the promise of food kept us afloat.

Finally, we received one more set of directions that we decided to follow and, lo and behold, they were correct. We did finally get to Fashion Island … after everyone had already finished eating.

As I sat boxing my entree to take home, I couldn’t help but think that, despite essentially missing the banquet, it really was one of the best things that could’ve happened.

Sitting in the car for those two hours gave me the time to think about how, today, we have become afraid of not being in control and getting lost. Not just lost in the navigational sense, but in the way where we have to ask ourselves, “Where are we going?”

The answer should be: “Wherever we want.” It is in those moments of being lost that one is able to really ask these questions and to discover the unexpected, the beauty that lies in those moments where life just happens. If cars give us the freedom to explore, why not really take the wheel in your hands and explore? Head off to sights unseen.

At least you’ll get a neat story out of it.