Thursday 28 January 2021

"Don't worry too much if you get lost"

 Have you ever got lost? I don't mean just a little lost, but totally lost, without a clue where you are or what you are going to do, in a place which you are unfamiliar with and without money or identification? 

It has only happened to me once. It was about ten years ago when we went on holiday to the USA and were visiting friends in Milwaukee. I went with my wife and children and we were visiting friends. Although I am good with directions and knowing where I am, our friends had picked us up at the airport and taken us directly to their house. I hadn't bothered to even ask their address. On the next day, the plan was to go to a large amusement park, where I can't even remember. As we were with friends, I didn't take my passport. My wife had all of our US currency as she feels I am irresponsible with large amounts of cash and I can't be bothered arguing. We did what you do at theme parks. After about an hour, I needed to go to the loo and said "Just wait here a second". Off I went. When I came back, they'd gone. I didn't have a mobile phone that worked on US networks, so I couldn't ring them. I didn't have any cash at all. I had credit cards, but nothing to actually buy food or drinks because the stalls didn't take them.

I initially assumed they would come back, so I just waited, but after an hour they hadn't returned. It dawned on me that I had no clue where my friends lived. I didn't have our address book. I didn't know where I was. I had no cash, no ID, just a few credit cards and I didn't even know if I could use these in a cab. It suddenly dawned on me that I was completely lost. I knew where I was, but even finding my friends would be a monumental effort. We'd driven several miles and I didn't even know what district of Milwaukee they lived in. Where do you start in such a situation, especially with no cash?

Eventually I decided to set off and find them, but the park was huge. I tried to imagine where they might have gone. After another hour and a half of searching, no luck and it was announced that the park was closing. I couldn't even remember where they'd parked. To make matters worse, there were several exits that all looked the same. I couldn't believe the situation. I couldn't work out what to do. Should I check into a hotel? Would they let me in with no ID, would they believe my bizarre story? Maybe I should report myself lost at the Police station. I was just about to make my way out as the park was shutting, when the party showed up. What amazed me was they weren't in the least concerned. They'd not heard me say I was going to the loo and hadn't noticed I was missing until long after the event. They'd assumed that I'd got bored and would meet them back at the car.

It was an instructive lesson. I will never, ever find myself in a foreign country not knowing where I am staying again. Needless to say, they all thought it bloody hilarious. I often wondered how it would have panned out if I'd not bumped into them. It hadn't occurred to them that I didn't have their address and telephone number. 

A few months later, I was with a group of people with special needs in France. We were visiting a place and people were going off on their own in small groups. I made sure we all had our badges and made a point of stressing that if anyone got lost, come to the town square and we'd meet under the clock. I said "Don't worry too much if you get lost, just make your way back here". As everyone went off, I should say that those who might get lost had people with them who I trusted to find their way back, I thought of the irony of the situation. We can all get lost. And then I thought about the situation we find ourselves in today with covid, many of us had the roadmap of our life mapped out. We had plans. We had savings, we had all sorts of things. And now here we are. Whoever thought one could get lost in their own home? Strange times indeed.  

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