Directions for free

A few days ago, in the middle of my nightly run, I got stuck at the corner of a busy intersection. As I waited for the light to change so I could cross the street, I decided to keep my blood pumping by running in place while bobbing around and pummeling the air with jabs and hooks.

I was picturing myself climbing into the ring to take on Clubber Lang when a nearby shout snapped me back to reality. I decided to ignore it, assuming that it came from one of my Midwestern city's many professional swindlers - because the best way to get rid of swindlers (to avoid falling prey to their woeful tales of keys locked in cars, and their assurances that if you just give them your mailing address, they'll return your credit at their earliest convenience) is to pretend they don't exist.

But the voice failed to pick up on my lack of interest. "You in the reflective neon green jacket!" it shouted.

As far as I knew, I was the only person in the vicinity in a reflective neon green jacket, which I wear both for safety's sake and to give passersby a good reason to openly laugh at me (because I don't regard running in place while bobbing around and pummeling the air with jabs and hooks as a good enough reason in and of itself). Despite myself, I turned toward the voice.

It wasn't coming from across the street, as I'd thought, but from a car stopped at the light. And the driver, a middle-aged woman, didn't try to con me. Instead, she asked me how to get to Target. "Do I keep going straight?" she shouted. "Or do I take a left here?"

My throat tightened and I grabbed at it, gasping. Luckily for me, Target was a quarter of a mile down the road, so all I had to do was point straight ahead. The woman nodded curtly and rolled her window up - concerned, no doubt, that I was a lunatic in the early stages of a homicidal episode.

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