We were lost, through no fault of our amiable bus driver, Mr. Charles, who was doing his best to deliver 26 teenagers to the appropriate spot on the University of Alabama’s campus. I blame the entire directional nightmare on his fossilized GPS system, which was obviously last updated when Pangea was still intact. The little unit affixed to his windshield was persnickety about street numbers and changed its mind with such alacrity that no other conclusion remained other than to declare the headless voice with a British accent as possessed of an unclean spirit, make the sign of the cross in the air, and turn to another resource. The other resource was the iPhone in my hand, and even it wasn’t clairvoyant enough to know when streets turned into one way annoyances. So we were ten minutes past our scheduled tour time, no one was answering the phone in the visitors’ center, and we needed to turn the bus around for the third time.
“Give me an atlas any day of the week,” Mr. Charles exclaimed, as he finally found a parking lot with enough space to rotate a charter bus. “The other drivers make fun of me because they think technology is the greatest. They’ll tell me, ‘We got phones, we got GPS, we got computers …’ We got lost is what I remind them.”
I half agreed with him though most days I’m delighted with my phone and its ability to take me places that I’ve never been. But right now I was feeling the time crunch, and I needed that blue dot on my screen to move three streets to the left without further delay. We pulled back into the road and I called out the upcoming turns. We had zeroed in on the location the way a person does playing Battleships. We kept lobbing the bus at different sections of the street until process of elimination told us that the Student Service Center had to be between two certain road signs. Now as long as we could hang a left at the next intersection, we would be Sweet Home Free Alabama. As we closed in on the target, I started praying for a left. I willed a left into existence. I envisioned a left in my mind.
“Looks like we can only take a right,” Mr. Charles called out.
The bus lumbered up the road in the opposite direction of the Promise Land, and we were once again searching for a place spacious enough for our automotive rump. Precious minutes ticked off the clock, and I tried calling the University tour representative for the third time. I was growing quite fond of his voicemail.
“Almost there,” Mr. Charles said, and rolled over a curb with the back end. At this point I was pretty sure we could have strapped the kids on the backs of mammoths and made better time up those roads.
As we finally caught sight of the Student Center, my phone rang and someone from my school a few hundred miles away said the University of Alabama had called and wanted to know where we were.
“Circling campus,” I said, as I snatched my purse and backpack from the seat and darted down the bus steps toward the appropriate building. A lovely young woman in red was already walking toward me so I hung up the phone.
“Did you have trouble finding us?”
Only as compared to something simple such as locating a water fountain in a moon crater or spotting a sober Irishman in a pub. “Only a little,” I said, as I started flagging children to pile off the bus.
“Welcome to Alabama,” she said.
© 2013 – Traci Carver