Posted by Jenn Thorson at 7:00 AM Labels: austin, bad sense of direction, big lots, dick's sporting goods, getting lost in a parking lot
My dear friend Austin could get lost in a department store dressing room. To his credit, many of the short cuts I now use around Pittsburgh were because Austin had once gotten lost there, and had charted an unexpected path back to civilization...
Or, say, Target.
But one day, Austin got lost big-time... And he took half the traffic of Route 30 with him.
It was a sunny summer day, and Austin was driving back from teaching karate class. There, his young students learned Karate Lite and looked up to my friend as a powerful mystical ninja master. And not just some dude who didn't know north from North Versailles.
Music playing, and having smoothly answered his students' questions about pinwheel kicks to the neck and such, Austin was pleasantly tired and feeling good about life in general.
And then he heard the multi-car accident just a few cars ahead.
Now, Route 30 is a busy four-laner, and this accident blocked two lanes. In no time, the local police had swept in... lights swirling, sirens a-blaring, tazers prepped for tazing, megaphones for, er, megaphoning... And they contained the area, in only the way Pittsburgh police truly can...
Meaning, they saw it was a great time to exercise all that authority and equipment that had been sitting around dusty for a while...
Taxpayer dollars at work, you know.
So they put on their stern faces, because clearly we're all guilty of something here, and they motioned the two undamaged cars ahead of Austin, out of the way of their work.
This meant there was now the accident scene... And Austin, lead car in the lineup of an increasingly long line of cars.
Well, the traffic sat there a while. And Austin, laid-back soul that he is, had zoned out contentedly in the sunshine, as his tunes played.
So he was somewhat jarred when the stern sunglassed face of an officer appeared at his window, and spoke.
Austin rolled down the window. "Pardon?"
Only the words of the officer were not clearer for repetition. This officer was a mumbler of the highest caliber. And Austin, aware there were marble busts with softer, kinder features than this cop, decided it was best not to push his luck and ask the officer to repeat himself again.
No, Austin decided to go by the cop's body language, instead. Which had pointed off the road and into the Big Lots parking lot.
The Big Lots parking lot has two exits. And what Austin gleaned well after the fact was that the officer had wanted him to pull into the parking lot, circumnavigate the accident, and take the second exit back onto the road.
The key words here are "Well After the Fact."
Because Austin pulled into the strip mall parking lot... and then just kept going. Yes, our Austin had the idea that perhaps the officer knew of some other exit behind the Big Lots building...
And so he pursued this course with dogged ambition, missing the exit entirely, and instead swept around the building and back to a dead-end alley lined with dumpsters.
All of this would have been fine. Only the officer had also waved the 50 cars that had been backed up, to follow the lead car. Y'know: Austin.
It was somewhere about the time that Austin tried to get his car in reverse when he noticed-- for the first time, in his rearview-- the long line of cars snaking behind him. Yes, his fellow travelers had turned to him as the Great Trailblazer, leading them all to the Promised Land of New Farvignugen.
So in under three minutes, all of westbound Route 30 was gridlocked in the Big Lots parking lot, several of those cars now attempting to k-turn with Austin, amid garbage, back behind the store.
Not to be deterred, Austin assumed this unwanted leadership position and decided he'd better at least look like he knew what he was doing. They were depending on him, after all. And in a panic of trial-and-error, he now shot off in the exact opposite direction toward Dick's Sporting Goods.
And 50 cars trailed along to Dick's Sporting Goods, too.
It was somewhere at this point that Austin recalled, oh! He'd actually wanted something in this store, hadn't he? What luck! And so he parked. And thought he'd get out to run a few errands.
And that's when other drivers got the idea that maybe Austin's plan was not so much for them.
As he stepped from the car, he was yet again startled to see people in minivans and SUVs, Accords and Camrys, spread out higglety-piggelty across the strip mall parking lot, scratching their heads and wondering how things had gone so very wrong in such a small space and short time.
Austin, told us later that he'd felt the drivers pretty much got what they deserved, for relying on a stranger's critical thinking skills, when he knew very well he couldn't find his way out of a sealed Zip-loc baggie.
And now, every time I pass that strip mall, I find my own thoughts drifting to my fine friend Austin.... The good-natured, bewildered soul who wanted nothing more than a short cut and new jogging shoes... Some sunshine and a little music...
And instead gave his fellow travelers a behind-the-scenes tour that they were not soon likely to forget.
And today's question- How's your sense of direction? Or is GPS your best bud?