Ironically, although I found my footing in D.C., I ended up getting lost at home. The day after our 13-hour drive back to Florida, I went to my friend’s bachelorette party. A trip that was supposed to take half-an-hour (or forty minutes with rush-hour traffic) ended up taking two hours. Yes, I became seriously lost.
I took a left turn about five minutes too early, and ended up travelling down the wrong road. Everything I know about Florida was embodied by this unintentional detour: secluded, wealthy subdivisions; golf courses; a town designed around a community of Northerners, who came here looking for an idyllic life (they even had an LED traffic sign advertising Zumba classes!); middle-class suburbs; sudden farmland and pastures; rutted roads and patchy grass; a tiny town with an empty gas station; and finally, the end of the road in a small grid of a neighborhood.
I’m a very curious person, and I’ve always wondered what the end of the road looked like. That evening wasn’t exactly the time I wanted to find out, however, and the results were decidedly less exciting and mysterious than I had hoped.
Turning around, I retraced my steps through the cross-section, of Florida. Even with my friend guiding me through Mapquest and cell phones (yes, I know I should have taken the GPS), I still needed to find an address for her to give me directions. I pulled down a road that seemed the least sketchy and arrived at a small structure plastered with notices and signs. Even though there were no lights on inside, there were dozens of cars parked in the grass lots surrounding the building. I found this odd, wondering where all the people were. Nervous, I turned the car around to leave.
As I did so, my headlights ran across a figure of a person sitting upright in a chair outside the door. It took a few moments for me to calm down and realize that the body was merely clothes stuffed in the shape of the person. In my panicked state, I wondered why someone would do something so twisted (sorry to those of you who do, I was really resentful for being scared). With the full moon out, I could see a sign on a chain link fence that read “Police Pound”, and I started to wonder if I somehow stumbled across a secret KKK meeting. (My mother later explained to a calmer me that a “Police Pound” was a location for confiscated cars, not for anti-authoritarian hot spots)
“Jenn, what’s the address?” Kaitlyn’s voice asked over the phone. Trying to focus, I looked for a mailbox…something that would have the number of the building. Finally, over the door, I saw tiny numbers. I read off the address to her and drove my way back to the main road as quickly as possible.
Yes, I made it to her party safely, and yes, we had a fun time. The adventure (and frustration) were worth helping Kaitlyn enjoy the celebration of her upcoming wedding. Looking back, even though I didn’t plan on getting lost, I’m glad to have had an hour and a half of reflection on my home state and its demographics, and to have an unforgettable experience. And yet, I’m left with the underlying question: if I can’t even find my way around my own hometown, how am I going to survive in Germany?
Stay tuned to find out!