Lost in Virginia

I dropped Chandler off at college last weekend.

Chandler chose a liberal arts college in Washington DC, so by dropped off, I mean flew 2700 miles across the country, stayed five nights with a girlfriend in Virginia, and drove around picking up bedding and hangers and toothpaste (not to mention 5 Costco-sized boxes of granola bars and 6 pounds of protein powder) before depositing Chandler at his dorm where he almost didn’t let me stay and help him unpack. (Fortunately for him, he came to his senses.)

We flew out on Wednesday, did our errands on Thursday, went sightseeing on Friday and moved him in on Saturday. I stayed a couple extra days in case we forgot anything (which of course we did) and because it’s way cheaper to fly out on a Monday than a Sunday.

The roads in Virginia are confusing to me. In California we are on a grid. Virginia? Not so much.

map-of-san-fernando-valley
See those lines? Those are roads. It may not be pretty, but it’s easy to find your way around.

 

I could find no rhyme or reason to how they planned their roads. Streets randomly change names, there are trees everywhere, which is lovely, but it means that there are no landmarks and everywhere looks the same. There are also no signs. I understand and appreciate sign laws, but they have seriously taken the whole “no sign” thing too far. Strip malls sit far back off the street (behind the trees) and there is no possible way to know what store is inside of a shopping center unless you drive into it (down a quarter mile long driveway). Can someone please explain to me how someone from out of town is supposed to know where a freaking Starbucks is if you can’t see them from the road?!

Loudoun County Map
This is so not a grid.

 

And to make matters worse the GPS on my phone was not cooperating so we had to use Chandler’s. Yes, the navigation lady on Chandler’s phone would tell us to In half a mile turn right, In 400 feet turn right, TURN RIGHT! I mean, yeah, she was a little bossy, but in this case it was comforting to be told exactly where to go.

The only thing my navigation lady said was GPS signal lost. (Bitch!)

When I left Chandler on Saturday my GPS lost its signal (again) but at least it happened after I downloaded the directions. Then the battery started to die. My portable charger was dead and the car charger would not work. “Really, universe?!” I screamed said out loud. “I just dropped my son off at college 2,700 miles away. He’s so excited to start life on his own, he wouldn’t even let me stay for dinner. And now you’re not going to let me find my way home?” They say if you put it out into the universe what you need you will get it and this time it actually worked – with a bit of effort (and a lot of jiggling) I was able to get the car charger to work(ish).

I made it back and had half price sushi with my very good lifelong friends who now live in Virginia. Fortunately I did not have to drive.

On Sunday I had to go to Walmart (light bulb for desk lamp, thumb tacks and dryer sheets) and Old Navy (flip flops for the shower that inexplicably Walmart did not have) in Virginia, then to Chandler’s school in DC, and then back to Virginia to a cool restaurant/wine tasting bar called The Wine Kitchen to meet my long-time blogger friend Abby Byrd IRL. (That’s In Real Life for all you non-bloggers out there.)

Easy-Peasy, right? I mean, I’m a full-time working suburban mom; my typical Sundays have three times the items on this list.

I got to Walmart and Old Navy just fine. But then my GPS decided to PMS and completely shut down on me in the Old Navy parking lot even though I had full bars. (I told you she was a bitch!)

And when you’re somewhere you’ve never been before, you’re feeling very emotional about just dropping off your firstborn at college (that did I mention is 2,700 miles away?) and lost, it kind of stresses you out.

I went back into Old Navy to get on their WiFi so I could pull up my navigation. And I was running late so I had to get in touch with Abby and ask her if we could meet an hour later. BUT, even though I connected to Old Navy’s WiFi I could not get my navigation to work. And to make matters worse I did not have Abby’s phone number and could only contact her via Facebook messenger, which was also not working.

Fantastic!

I decided to go next door to Nordstrom Rack hoping their WiFi would be better, because, you know, it’s Nordstrom. Success! I was able to change the time with Abby and pull up directions. Of course the navigation signal was lost the minute I walked out of the store, but at least it was stored in my phone.

After saying goodbye to Chandler I punched in the address to The Wine Kitchen and surprise, surprise, my GPS had shut down again. I saw a university shuttle bus that takes students to the closest Metro stop so I followed it knowing there was a Starbucks at that stop and I could go inside and get onto my navigation system using their WiFi.

By this time I was running late, mentally exhausted, emotionally drained, frustrated and lacking confidence (though I have to admit it was pretty clever of me to follow that bus). My phone screen kept going black and I had to continually swipe my screen and re-pull up my directions. It was while doing this that I missed an exit on my way to the Wine Kitchen. As I drove past it I literally screamed, “NOOOOOOOO!!!!” at the top of my lungs as tears rolled down my face. I felt completely undone, as if this were some harbinger of what my life was going to be like without Chandler. Without me he was untethered and free. Without him I couldn’t find my way; I was lost.

Can I ask that you indulge me (yes even more) for a minute and let me tell once again how crazy the roads are in Virginia? You can’t just get off at the next exit and get back on in the opposite direction like you can in California.

As an example it was 22.6 miles from the Old Navy to Chandler’s school. This relatively “short” trip had 9 turns, 7 roads, 1 parkway, 1 state road, 3 highways and a traffic circle and is a 35 minute trip with no traffic. (Thank you Google maps.)

In comparison, from my house to UCLA it is 26.7 miles that has 5 turns, 6 streets and 2 freeways and is a 33 minute trip with no traffic. Okay, the fact that there is never no traffic between my house and UCLA, even at 4AM on Christmas is beside the point!

Thank you for your indulgence, back to the story…

I did pull off at the next exit (I was still a good 30 minutes away and was supposed to meet Abby in 10 minutes) and saw a Ritz Carlton. I parked in front a shuttle bus, walked up to a valet and said, “Hi. I’m incredibly lost. I’m 3,000 miles away from home, I have no idea where anything is, I’m late for an appointment and my GPS is not working.” I did my best to hold it together and not have crazy eyes or tears.

He kindly directed me to the concierge where the lovely man behind the desk agreed that Virginia roads are jacked up and printed me a map. Abby had arrived and texted me (I had given her my number) and I was able to let her know that I was going to be really (really) late.

I finally found my destination with Abby waiting graciously and patiently for me. The wine and conversation made me feel better (because wine and conversation makes everything better). Afterwards Abby helped me find my way back to my friend’s. (Which miraculously only had 3 roads and 2 turns!)

I’ve been home a few days now. I know where everything is, but I still can’t shake the feeling that I’m lost, still trying to find my way.

 

 

 

 

 

8 thoughts on “Lost in Virginia

  1. Favorite line: “Without me he was untethered and free. Without him I couldn’t find my way; I was lost.”

    You always, always, always, push my heartstring buttons of motherhood. I always feel a kindred spirit with you and your motherhood journey. My first born son leaves for college next year. I’m sure I will (and already do) feel every single emotion you’ve expressed on all your blog posts about motherhood.

    BTW, you’re not lost and unable to find your way, you’re just a mother who suffers (and rejoices) in unconditional love of her children. What a double-edged sword that is. Yet, a sword we mothers will always willingly and lovingly bleed from. 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Demetria. You are always so sweet! Yes, this thing called motherhood is quite a journey isn’t it?

      And going off to college (and leaving the nest), such a milestone. Chandler’s roommate’s mother said, “It’s so exciting. And devastating.” That’s exactly right.

  2. Oh, Charlene.
    This post left me verklempt (I don’t get to use that word often enough but you did it).

    If only Jack could get in to UCLA.
    Sigh.

    But I know one thing now for sure: I’m not letting him apply to any schools in Virginia.

    Hope your maternal navigation system is realigning itself and that you’re finding your footing with only one teenager under your roof. For now.

    Looking forward to seeing you soon and catching up.
    Hugs until then.
    And you can borrow my son, too, if you want.
    He’s pretty good in a pinch.
    My navigation system I can’t vouch for.

  3. Ok first and foremost: you need a new phone. But at least it was a distraction from the chaos of leaving your baby behind. I just did that too but guess what? He came back. The surf is good so he came back for the weekend. Drove 7 hours for three days of waves, then back again for rush on Sunday. Crazy those college kids! Best years of their young lives.

  4. I read this quite some time ago and never commented. Perhaps a certain 3-year-old needed a butt wipe, or some such emergency? Thanks for the shout-out–I am so happy we got to meet after all this time. Kim, you’re next. xoxo

    I hope Chandler is doing well and you are doing OK without him at home.

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