A few years ago, Dougie gave me a GPS unit as an anniversary gift. Be jealous, ladies. At the time, I accepted it with a mix of appreciation and bemusement. Ohhh, sure, I tend to get lost sometimes. Okay, a lot. Okay, I’ve actually gotten lost so many times that it’s become a running joke with my family. But an anniversary gift? Come on, man, where’s the romance?
The king of the practical gifts had struck again. Then he said, “So you can always find your way back home to me,” and I melted. Of course he was also probably thinking, “and cook for me, because I only know how to reheat leftovers” but still, the sentiment was there.
Countless times I’ve pressed the “Go Home” button simply because I had a full bladder and needed the most direct route to my bathroom. The GPS became my friend. I named her Jill. But now, I’m convinced Jill was simply trying to gain my trust – so she could KILL ME!
Over the years, my dashboard demon has tried to dispose of me in various ways. Once she directed me UP a busy Kansas City off-ramp. She’s also lured me under a dead-end bridge that looked like the perfect spot for a meth party including among other odd items, a broken television and an abandoned back-pack. I still wonder what was in that pack. Maybe snacks. Maybe a severed head. It’s probably best I don’t know. Out of sheer amusement she’s also taken me through countless neighborhoods where my Honda minivan stood out like a librarian at a Lady Gaga concert.
Then one day, the evil witch led me right into the den of a crazed lunatic. Okay, it was actually a very nice woman who refused to press charges (God love her) and her daughter (who clearly needs the “strange danger” talk), and in reality, *I* was the only one who looked like a lunatic but – well – let me explain. . .
I was on my way to the bridal shower of now sister-in-law, Erin. After juggling two large gift boxes out to the car, and inputting the address into the GPS, I was on my way. The only problem was, when I got to my destination, the one that Jill was waving the checkered flag at as if to say, “Here, Dummy, you made it,” there was no house number to confirm it. My instincts told me I was at the wrong place, so I drove on. The fact that it was a rural area with generous acreage between each home wasn’t helping.
I called Erin, who told me, no, the house was not numbered but that I would know it from all the cars in the drive and if I was at the intersection of X and X, I probably had the right house. THEN, I heard children in the background. This is important to know, people.
I drove back to the original spot Jill directed me to. The one she was still waving her damn checkered flag about. I counted 5 cars in the drive, I’m early, I thought, that seems like an appropriate number of cars. I parked, grabbed my purse and while I was situating one gift on the other so they wouldn’t fall, I spotted a little girl holding the door open for me. How sweet, I thought, this must be one of the little darlings I heard on the phone.
As I approached the door, the blonde-haired beauty, who appeared to be about four, looked at my bright packages with the big bows and opened the door even wider. I entered the foyer but heard no music, saw no decorations, heard no voices and smelled no cake, and yet, because Jill waved that flag, I still thought I was at the right house.
I looked down at the child who was now staring at me and inquired in my sweetest voice, “Where is everyone at? Are they downstairs?” She pointed down the hall and said, “There,” which actually sounded more like “Der” but I’ve got two kids so I’m fluent in toddler-speak.
On my way down the hall, little warning bells were beginning to go off in my head. I spied piles of laundry in the corner (everyone knows that gets shoved in a closet on party day), cereal boxes splayed on the kitchen counter and a can of Manwich sloppy joe mix near by. Hmmm, either we’re having some interesting party food or SOMEone didn’t clean the kitchen. *warning bell* Still, kept walking.
Arriving at the living room, I saw no one except the tot who was following me. Still believing she was a teeny party helper I leaned down and inquired again, “Hi, where is the party, is it downstairs?” To which she replied, “I go get mama.”
While my arm ached with the strain of heavy boxes (’cause I’m a good gifter, y’all) I took in my surroundings once again and yes, THIS was the moment that my stupid brain finally caught up to the part of the story that I’m sure you’ve already clued into, “Holy. Hell. I am in the wrong house. A stranger’s house. WAY inside this person’s house. If this were the movie “Saw,”, I’d be tied to a pipe and listening to Jigsaw by now.
After my epiphany I hauled ass back the way I came, my little kitten heels click-clacking as fast as my Corgi dog legs would carry them. Just as I got to the front door, Mama came around the corner and greeted me with a wary look, “Can I help you,” she quizzed.
Humiliated, running late, and now fearing I might have to cut my own leg off (sorry, that was another “Saw” reference), and that everyone was eating all the cake at the real party, I blurted a string of incoherent sentences as I backed out the door. “I am so sorry. I’m in your strange house. I mean, in a stranger’s house. This is not where I’m supposed to be. I was trying to find a bridal shower and Jill waved the flag so I thought this was the right house and then your little girl opened the door for me and, you should really talk to her about stranger danger, even if the person at the door looks like an Avon lady bearing gifts and now I’m just gonna go and I didn’t touch anything and I’m really sorry.”
All the while, I was speaking in my “outside voice” and smiling that deranged wide-eyed smile, and giggling like I do when I’m nervous, which certainly didn’t help establish my sanity.
Mama continued to eye me suspiciously but said, “That’s okay,” then watched me like a hawk until I practically threw the boxes back in the family truckster and sped away.
Driving away from the scene I let a string of expletives fly at Jill that would’ve made a drill sergeant blush. I may have called her mother an electronic whore, I’m not sure, I was having a full-on hissy fit at the time.
One more call to the bride-to-be led me to the correct address – just three houses down. When I arrived, my sister Melissa asked the typical question, “Did you get lost,” and my mother, who could see the PTSD look on my face, told me to sit down where I quietly and quickly told the story. Melissa howled with laughter, my mother gasped and clutched her chest, because she immediately wondered how I had narrowly avoided being the victim of a serial killer too. Like mother, like daughter.
In my novelette, Next Left, which is celebrating its one-year Anniversary this month, I specifically added the element of a cantankerous GPS so I could work out my issues with Jill. In the story, Amanda is a bridesmaid and must rely on the GPS in her rental car to get her around an unfamiliar town during the weekend of her friend’s wedding. As it turns out, the best directions she gets the whole trip, come hastily written on a scrap of paper by Luke, the local barista who has more behind his chocolate-brownie eyes than he appears.
You can read an excerpt from Next Left – HERE
Next Left is available for the anniversary price of 99 cents on Amazon