Last week, my son was chosen to attend a conference at a local university. While he was happy to be chosen and excited about attending the conference (and missing school), this was the first time that he would have to navigate an unknown route on his own.
His concern began the week before. “I need to know how to get to the university,” he told me. (My children do not have smart phones or a GPS. We rely on old fashioned maps in our house. Actually, that’s not completely true. Mapquest is my navigation system of choice in most instances).
“I can tell you how to get there,” I told him. “Or you can look it up.”
“How do I do that?” he asked, triggering a twang of annoyance in my head. I cannot even begin to tell you how much this question irks me.
“Really?” I responded. “You can spend hours on the Internet, and you don’t know how to find directions?” I sighed as I realized he has not needed directions before now. I had a brief memory of my father’s irritation with me when, at 18, I didn’t know my way to a venue over an hour from our home. It was a place we visited every summer, but the drive through farmland, over twisty back roads always induced an intense case of day-dreamy-ness in me. Because I wasn’t driving, I didn’t have to pay attention to the route. “I’ll help you find the directions, but I’m not going to do it for you. It’ll be a good exercise.” And that was the end of the discussion and the immediate effort, but not of his worries.
The day before the event, he once again expressed his concern that he did not know the way. “I’ll Google it and show you,” I told him, but I had a scheduled meeting, and he didn’t want to move from the activity of the moment. So I closed my computer and left for my meeting.
When I returned, he was packing up his gear for the next day. “Can you help me with the directions?” He looked up and smiled a sheepish smile.
“I tried to show you before I left. Go pull it up on the computer, and I’ll go over it with you.” And so it was that he was finally able to get directions. We scanned the map together, and I pointed out the route, the trouble spots, and gave him tips for navigating the morning rush hour traffic. He printed out the directions and a map of the area, tucking them into the bag he would bring with him.
The next morning, he left on schedule. He had allowed twice the time it would take for the drive. Fifteen minutes after he left, my phone rang. It was him. “What’s up?” I answered.
“So… River Road is closed.”
“What do you mean ‘closed’? Is there a detour?”
“I don’t think so. There’s just a barricade and a guy telling people not to go that way.”
“Where are you now?” I asked him as I sat down at my computer. “Give me a minute to bring up a map.”
“I’m pulled over on the side of the road.” He paused. “From the map, it looks like I can get there if I take School Street all the way out.”
I surveyed the map on my screen. “I think that will work,” I told him. “Can you get to School Street from where you are?”
“I should be able to. There are several roads that lead over there.” He hung up, and in another fifteen minutes, he sent me a text to let me know that he had reached his destination.
He thought he was prepared for the day when he left home, but there are things we don’t plan for on our journey. Sometimes, unexpected things come up—detours, roadblocks, wrong turns. All we can do is prepare the best we possibly can and be flexible. Because he had printed out the map and tucked it into his bag, he was able to recalculate his route and make it to his destination with time to spare.