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.

 

 

 

 

 

The Day My Son Almost Got on a Plane Alone Without His Cellphone

Early Sunday morning we dropped Chandler off at the airport for an overnight trip to Washington D.C. Yep that’s right, 2700 miles across the country and back in 36 hours so he could check out a college that’s much too far from home in my opinion. (What if he meets a girl there. And marries her. And never comes home!) I watched him walk away then looked to see if he forgot anything and saw his phone on the backseat.

His phone.

cell phone
Oops!

Dave hopped out of the car and called him before he went inside the terminal. As he handed over the phone Chandler said, “That would be bad.”

Yes it would.

Nobody was picking up Chandler at the airport in DC. He was taking the Metro to the university he was visiting and meeting the student whose dorm he was staying in. The student was going to text Chandler where to meet him. Without his phone that meeting would have been close to impossible.

It’s crazy how dependent we’ve become on our phones. Why look something up on a map when your phone is equipped with a high-tech GPS navigation system? Traffic on the freeway? No need to wait ten minutes for an update on news radio, just check out Waze for an alternate route. Your toddler bored in line at the market? Hand her your phone so she can play a game and stop whining about it. Email, Facebook, your camera, hell even a flashlight – all on your phone.

And when we need to get in touch with someone? Instead of calling them we text. Ironically our dependence on cellphones has made actually talking on the phone nearly obsolete.

Dave and I tried to speculate what would have happened if I hadn’t seen the phone. When would Chandler have noticed and what would he have done? He’s really responsible and leaving his phone behind is out of character for him. I’m sure he was just distracted, maybe a bit nervous about his trip. But I worried, was this kid really ready to go away to school?

I don’t think I’m as dependent on my phone as most people seem to be. I rarely use it check my email or Facebook or Twitter status. I’m terrible at texting. In fact, I forget my phone all the time.

But I will admit that I am dependent on my kids having their phones. I like to keep tabs and keep them close. We used to have Chandler text us when he got to his destination when he first started driving. And we still ask him to text us when he’s on his way home.

When we got home from the airport I told Marley what happened and then said, “I think at dinner this week we’ll have to have a discussion about this and what you guys would do if you were traveling alone and didn’t have your phone.”

She rolled her eyes. “Really, Mom? I’d just find a mom or an an airport employee and tell them I was a lost little girl and could I please borrow their phone to call my mommy.”

I met  her eye roll with a sigh. I suppose she would. That girl’s got some street smarts. (As most girls do.) But would Chandler? I wan’t so sure.

After he got home I did ask him what he would have done. He shrugged, “It depends when I noticed.”

“What if you noticed before you got on the plane?” I asked.

“I’d use someone’s phone to call you or call my phone.”

“What if you noticed after you were on the plane and it was too late to get your phone back?”

“I’d find a way to call you when I got to DC then take the metro to the school. He texted me. You could have read me his text.”

“But Chandler,” I said, “what if your phone wasn’t in the car? What if you lost your phone?”

He shrugged again. “But I didn’t, Mom.”

No, he didn’t. I don’t know why I was skeptical that he’d know what to do. He is eighteen. And he’s smart. (Plus, am an awesome mom.) It would have been inconvenient for him not to have his phone. Perhaps even difficult. But like all of us when we forget our phones, he would have survived.

And I probably would have too.