Monday, March 15, 2010

Emma's World: You Can't Get There from Here

"Heights Presbyterian does not exist," Emma told me, resignedly.

I was driving. She was trying to enter the Houston contra dance location in the GPS.

"What do you mean, 'does not exist'?" I asked.

"I put the address in, and it says it doesn't exist," she answered, completely satisfied with this result.

"You must be doing something wrong," I suggested.

"No. I'm not," she said.

"Oh, great!" I thought. The GPS was supposed to be Emma's ticket to auto independence. She gets lost so easily, she cannot get to the local grocery store without calling to find out which way to turn. Clearly, technology was not going to save her, despite the fact that her dad had programmed in our home address, like digital breadcrumbs, so that all she has to do is select the "HOME" icon to return.

I had her read the printed directions that I had brought along as a back-up.

"Approach Eastex Freeway; take a left on 4th St., and take the ramp onto Hwy. 59," she read.

"Eastex Freeway and Hwy. 59 are the same thing," I said. "I want you to know that so that you don't get confused when you are driving by yourself.

"No, they are not," she said. "It says that you approach Eastex Freeway and take the ramp onto Hwy. 59. They're two different roads," she contradicted.

"Emma, you're retarded!" I told her, laughing but frustrated. "I know from experience that they are the same thing!"

"Mom! I am not retarded!" she insisted, laughing also.

"Yes, you are!" I said, laughing so hard that I was finding it difficult to drive. "Remember when you were driving down I-10, and I tried to explain where the other major highways were? You got all upset and shrieked, 'STOP! That's too much information!'"

"Well," she said defensively, "I read an article that said that people who get lost easily have a gene that's missing. Maybe I have that."

"Oh," I said, mulling over this new clue. I remembered a time when she was driving north, going home from the weaving store. I had her turn left, into a gas station. Because the gas station was at a busy intersection, to resume our course, she had to go south and then make a u-turn. Instead of the u-turn to go north, she made a left turn, toward the east. Immediately, I made her pull into the corner parking lot and told her to get back on the main road to go home.

"But I don't know which way that is!" she said, tearfully. She was so upset, she parked the car, got out, and we switched places. All I had to do was make a right turn out of the west side of the parking lot.

"Yes," I thought. "The missing gene theory has definite possibilities, but it doesn't explain the Honda thing."

On our way to Heights Presbyterian for the contra dance, we took Grandpa Somerset by the tire store to pick up his car. Emma had gone in with him. While they were in line, Grandpa left her to go to the bathroom. When the man behind the counter asked how he could help her, she told him confidently, "My grandpa is here to pick up his car."

"What kind of car is it?" the tire man asked.

"Uhhh," she answered, buying some time. "A Honda?"

"What kind of Honda?" the tire man persisted, raising his arm and making a sweeping motion to indicate the store parking lot, with several Hondas in it.

"I don't know," she admitted at last.

I can picture the whole scene--Emma smiling sweetly, innocent as a rose and very, very polite; the man behind the counter, perplexed and losing patience.

She told me that as the man waited for her to answer, she thought of the adjectives "big, white, and rectangular." Thankfully she did not vocalize them.

My parents have owned this vehicle since 2003. Emma sees it every day of her life that she is at home. She has washed it, ridden in it, driven it, unloaded it, played hide 'n seek around it, but she could not recall what model it is. That took about 30minutes. I'm guessing that she had to pull up a mental picture of the word spelled out on the back of the vehicle and read it.

"Is it a Pilot?" she asked finally, as we sped down Hwy. 59, not Eastex Freeway.

"Yes," I sighed, feeling somehow exhausted.

Then she said something that actually made sense to me.

"I'm not retarded, Mom. It's just the modern world I have a problem with."

"That's right." I thought. You could plop her down in a medieval village, and she could function perfectly well, where most people today could not.

Now the only problem is finding her one.

1 comment:

Emily G. said...

Poor Emma! I can just see her asking her five year old, "Which way to do we turn to get home?" lol

I have a great sense of direction on foot. When I was in Europe and a group of us would go out wandering, people quickly figured out that I could get them home better than anyone else. In a car, I am hopeless. Roads twist too much! I never know which direction is which. That said, I usually can find my way where I want to go. It's all a matter of having the basic layout of the land in your head. It takes a while. Anthony grew up in a city. When he moved here, he was frustrated that the roads curve all over, but he rarely got lost. I grew up in the country, where I could find my way anywhere. When I started coming to the city more often I'd always get lost. There were too many roads to choose from, and they often took directions I did not expect. I can't tell you how many times Anthony would be on the phone telling me to 'head south' and I'd be going, "But where is that?" I now have a basic idea of our side of the city, and can get most anywhere I want to. However, if I go somewhere I don't usually go I always obsessively study Google maps and write down very detailed directions.