Soon it was time to drive to downtown Atlanta. Anxiety gave way to panic as I thought of the complexity of driving a left-hand-drive car in an eight-lane motorway on the wrong side of the road. My heart felt like a runaway train.
I took a deep breath as I picked up my folder and car keys. I stepped into the garage. The 2.5-liter metallic lime green VW Passat responded well as I reversed into the driveway. I paused to look at the map one last time and to say a prayer. I took a right turn, and right again, then a sharp left and another left into the motorway. Traffic ebbed and flowed easily.
Phew. I made it to downtown Atlanta — tense but without incident. My meetings ended at 4:00 p.m. The next appointment was at 7:15 p.m. for dinner. I figured how to get on the motorway with greater ease. As I nosed out into the traffic, an idea came up. Why not experiment? I had been wondering if I’d end up in a different place if I didn’t change lanes as the signs suggested. It always seemed to me as if the lane I’d be in would be leading in the same direction as the next lane. And in any case, I had idle time before the dinner date.
With time, the terrain got wilder as I got deeper into the countryside. I was certainly not heading to Kennesaw. I had been driving for about an hour when a sign reading “To South Carolina” caught the corner of my eye. I felt chilled to the bone. I had succeeded in getting myself lost! Darkness was falling, and it started to drizzle.
Terrifying possibilities crossed my mind. What if I ran out of gas in the middle of the highway? What if I crossed in the line of a gun-toting gang? What if I caused a traffic violation and got into a headline-grabbing police chase? Panic was slowing my mind down. I can’t afford to make another wrong decision. Not now. I took a quick glance at the clock on the dashboard. 6:03 p.m.
A voice inside me said, with the firmness of steel: keep your mind in the present. I tried to calm my nerves and hold myself together. I remembered the road directory Cege and Nimo had given me. As I stretched the right hand to reach the glove box, I noticed the compass.
Clearing my mind, I focused all attention on just one thing — finding my way to Kennesaw. I decided to do the sensible thing: drive back to downtown Atlanta, and start all again. I took a deep breath as I adjusted the driver’s seat. I listened to the engine hum happily in the chilly air as I stepped on the gas pedal to join the motorway heading south.
At exactly 7:15 p.m., I drove through the low iron gate and rolled to a stop just outside my friends’ house.
As I reflect on this incident, I see that in the final analysis, what saved the day was not so much my guts, but the simple act of consulting a map. No matter how complex the road system, how mad the drivers, and how loud my internal fears, my plan, encapsulated in that map, became my lifeline.
Sometimes, we take the wrong turn in life. It’s never too late to pause, listen to our inner voice, and start again.
Copyright ©2014 David Waweru