Directions for free

And her concern was warranted. Her request had left me an emotional wreck. In the hopes of regaining my composure, I leaned against a telephone pole, took deep breaths, and tried to keep the bad thoughts from flooding my mind. I even repeated the mantra I'd developed for such moments - I will not go to my dark place, I will not go to my dark place - but it was useless. The memories overtook me.

See, for all my life, direction-seekers have been drawn to me. Some of my earliest memories involve my parents renting me out to strangers to serve as a kind of human GPS unit on long road trips. [Note: My parents didn't actually rent me out to strangers; they offered my services free of charge.] But those aren't the memories that chill my heart. The bad times came later.

As I got older, my talent faded, even as direction-seekers flocked to me in greater numbers. By the time I reached high school, I had the sense of direction of a drunken lemur. I hit my low point on rugby weekend a few years back.

I was walking my dogs by the North Country Community College gym when a Jeep tore into the parking lot and lurched to a halt inches in front of me. A red-faced, heavily-muscled man - clearly a rugby enthusiast - threw open the driver's door, leapt out of the car, and demanded to know where the dorms were. He waved a flimsy map in my face.

"This [expletive deleted] piece of [expletive deleted] is a useless piece of [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted]," he said.

It might have been that I thought this man was about to tear my head from my neck and smash it on the asphalt like a ripe gourd, but I abruptly transformed into an incoherent doofus reminiscent of Poison guitarist C.C. DeVille. I pointed down the road and said, "Down there."

The man squinted in the direction I was pointing. "Down there?"

"Down there." I nodded emphatically. "Down there and turn." I whipped my finger to the right, indicating how he should turn.

And though the rugby player thanked me and got back into his car - apparently calmed down and confident in what I'd told him - I haven't given a decent set of directions since. Indeed, my life has become, quite literally, directionless.

Dan Leonidas makes shallow observations. He can be reached at dpleonidas@yahoo.com or myspace.com/lastminuteconcerns.

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