Tag Archives: GPS

Lost and Found Superhero

If I were to design a superhero, I wouldn’t create a Man of Steel or Woman in spandex. No power bracelets or magic rings. My superhero wouldn’t need a gas-guzzling super-car that always breaks the speed limit but never is issued even a warning.

Instead, I’d invent a superhero who finds things.

No computers or radar allowed. I want a superhero with an inborn, omniscient talent for zipping up black holes before they suck in all left socks, kids’ Spam Museum permission slips, and pens that write.

My superhero need not leap tall buildings in a single bound. I just want her to find fat-free mayo on sale. Minty breath mints. And Seductive Salmon.

Not an amorous fish. I want the lipstick. The moment I deem one my favorite, cosmetic gurus shriek, “Rachael Phillips likes it! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!” My marketing kiss of death sends Seductive Salmon posthaste to a black hole.

Where our keys also reside. They disappear, especially when I was due somewhere 20 minutes ago. I find the keys to our first apartment and those to old cars we maintained when our children still (theoretically) lived at home. But current car keys? They vanished upon our signing the purchase agreement. I eventually find them — often in the freezer, beside my frosted-over cell phone. Still, both continually play truant.

As do gas stations. When driving to catch a predawn flight, I inevitably discover my gas gauge points below E. At this signal, all stations at all freeway exits disguise themselves as bait shops.

Please do not tell me to trust a GPS. Once, when I traveled with writers so hungry we gnawed our books, one of those cruel, lady-voiced demons sent us to five different boarded-up restaurants.

I might consider a super-GPS that could locate tax receipts. Correction: the right tax receipts. I readily unearth one that records I ate a Belly Burger in Yazoo City, Mississippi, in 1999. But has anyone seen my 2020 W-2?

I also should program my superhero to lose things for me.

For example, my champion would swallow hated lyrics and toxic tunes that imprint themselves on my mental hard drive.

However, my superhero wouldn’t swallow pizza, strawberry-rhubarb pie, or moose tracks sundaes. That’s my job. Hers: banish the calories.

She’d deliver me from public restroom stalls with empty toilet paper spools and broken locks. My superhero would absorb the fines for library books I checked out during the first Bush administration. She’d scare away dandelions and crabgrass.

Oh, Lost and Found Superhero, please be real! I’ll give you a big, gas-guzzling superhero car.

But you will have to find the keys.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you need a Lost and Found Superhero?

Celebrity Goat Runner

When called upon to serve their fellow man, serious humorists never hesitate. Bob Hope performed shows for military overseas. Dave Barry rode with The World Famous Lawn Rangers precision lawnmower drill team in an inaugural parade. So, when my friend asked me to risk life and limb as the Celebrity Goat Runner at a 4-H Fair, I, too, answered the call.

I made one small stipulation. A former friend once conned me into throwing the first cow chip in a Sunday school competition. I since have sworn off all related activities, unless they involve changing my grandchildren’s diapers.

Still, I worried when my friend mentioned the word “maze.” I get lost in my driveway. So, I begged her to pair me with a goat with a good sense of direction. Or a GPS hung around its neck.

She promised I would not navigate a maze. Instead, the goat and I would run an obstacle course.

This was supposed to reassure me?

Visions of scaling rock walls with a goat tied to my back haunted me. I thought of Goat Gladiators. Would the goat scale the Ferris wheel with me tied to his back?

I told myself to get real. The last time I checked, goats weren’t allowed on Ferris wheels. Besides, most people don’t go to the fair to watch a goat obstacle course run. Sparse crowds attending the dishcloth-folding demonstrations encouraged me.

Sure enough, only a few hundred came. So what, if my name as Celebrity Pygmy Goat Runner echoed for miles over the fair’s loudspeaker?

But the course didn’t look bad. Helpful hints from my fellow goat handlers gave me hope.

“Lift the leash,” one little girl advised. Then, “If he still won’t go, lift his tail.”

Hmmm. I’d worn white Capris. …

I was introduced to Toby, a black-haired, wise-looking pygmy goat who bore a distinct resemblance to a former teacher. Thankfully, Toby, like Mr. P., was hornless. Unlike Mr. P., he did not keep the peace, but clashed with two young whippersnappers in the group. But Toby had made no attempt to knock me onto my butt. So far.

Of course, I went first.

“4-H-ers,” said the announcer, “please watch our Celebrity Runner carefully so you’ll know exactly what to do.”

Not good. Especially when Toby decided God did not make him a hurdler. I demonstrated. My athletic ability didn’t impress him. I politely requested he move. One step, please?

He not so politely declared he wouldn’t.

Finally, I lost it and said his nanny wore combat boots. He said, actually, his mother ate combat boots. Toby devoured my shoelaces to emphasize the point.

Finally, I yanked him along. He dug his hooves into the ground and skied halfway through the course like a motorboat-powered beauty.

Toby was not required to make a basket using a NERF ball and a toy shovel. Why me? Perhaps my lack of basketball prowess won me a smidgen of his sympathy. For the rest of the course, he refrained from balking, butting and making derogatory comments about my mother. Or maybe Toby decided cooperation with this loser was the quickest way to end the agony. Together, we wove in and out of the orange cones with style — finishing 23rd out of 23.

Afterward, a different friend (where do I get these friends?) told me he’d never met a celebrity goat. Did I get his autograph? What was it like?

He was getting all excited about nothing. I told him, “When you get to know them, they’re just regular people.”

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever met a celebrity goat, up close and personal?

Blind Married to the Blind

My husband and I share a history of nearsightedness.

When asked to identify letters on the blackboard, I said, “What letters?”

Steve said, “What blackboard?”

With eyeglasses, though, my physician spouse recognizes germs a mile away. However, he cannot see a kitchen range. Returning from an evening away, I find dishes symmetrically loaded in the dishwasher, kitchen gadgets polished — and spaghetti-encrusted pans on the tomato-y stove.

“Oh … I didn’t see those.”

Neither can he see leftovers unless placed on the fridge’s top shelf. Even if I attached a neon sign to food elsewhere, he’d microwave a frozen dinner or starve.

I, too, have blind spots. I can’t see fissures in his 30-year-old lunch Tupperware® containers. They were guaranteed for life. Therefore, cracks do not exist. Just eat the bologna sandwich, okay?

A friend insisted I replace the blackened wooden spoon my kid lit during a power outage.

I shrugged. “Why? It still works.”

Our challenged vision extends beyond the kitchen. He declares I never notice a sick computer’s symptoms until I bring it, clasping a lily, to him to fix.

He should talk about lilies? In my absence, Hubby doesn’t see thirsty plants, even when they email him photos of Death Valley.

Heaven help our finances if I leave the checkbook in my bag.

Hubby growls, “Which purse?” He wants a GPS reading.

I growl back, “Front closet, second shelf, tan purse with black trim, largest zippered pocket inside—”

“This bag?”

I roll my eyes. “That’s black with tan trim.”

Eventually he locates it. “I still don’t see the checkbook.”

“You’re blind. The checkbook’s in there.”

At the word “there,” his nearsighted eyes widen in terror.

Hubby associates it with minor interstate-related incidents. When he’s driving 70, and I say, “Go there” — to the exit across six lanes of traffic to the station with the cheapest gas or the last of Nevada’s two rest areas, he doesn’t see it.

But he insists I deny the existence of semitrailers.

Ha! As if, with his lousy eyesight, he would know.

Besides, I find denial very comforting.

I admit, though, that though Hubby never sees dirty pans, checkbooks or cheap gas, he can spot labels poking out of my clothes from Chicago.

You would think he’d also mention wrinkles and poundage on my face and frame. But he doesn’t.

I still see the twinkling blue eyes and cute grin of the boy I dated in high school.

Neither of us can read phone books or decipher teeny-tiny scores on TV screens. But when it comes to each other, we have perfect vision.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Are you and your spouse blind?

The GPS and Me

For years, drivers depended on many sources to guide them safely to destinations. They obtained free gas station maps, flappy guides destined never to fold into neat little rectangles again. Drivers asked guys at the pumps for directions, trusting honest faces and hard-working, dirty-nailed hands to point them the right direction. Or they stopped total strangers who had lived so long in a town, they forgot the names of the streets.

By default, they endured backseat drivers who dispensed a continual stream of advice.

Today’s drivers aren’t content with these tried-and-true resources that cost them nothing but their sanity. Instead, they pay for a Global Positioning System, or GPS — and regard it as God’s Positioning System.

Once, I traveled with a friend who depends on Lavinia, her GPS, for road directions, restaurant locations and tax advice. Like most of her species, Lavinia spoke with a civilized British accent. However, she appeared bipolar. Although 26 lanes of semitrailers blocked our path to an off-ramp, she repeated “Exit!” until we climbed over them.

She often insisted we turn onto airport runways. Occasionally, we encountered a road that in Lavinia’s mind did not exist, resulting in a panicked chorus of “recalculating … recalculating … recalculating!” accompanied by fits of screaming. Not unlike me the week before Christmas.

I offered Lavinia my estrogen, but she refused.

If only she possessed a more pleasant personality. I, like other directionally challenged people, might prefer a Mr. Rogers GPS.

MR. ROGERS: It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood! I like you just the way you are.

ME: Thanks, Mr. Rogers. Can you help me find the BMV?

MR. ROGERS: That’s a tough one. But you can do anything, if you set your mind to it. Let’s turn right. Can you show me your right hand?”

ME: (raising both) I’m not sure.

MR. ROGERS: Can you count the number of smashed cars?

ME: No, but I can count the cars with flashing lights: one, two, three. …

MR. ROGERS: You’re so special.

Like other low-techies, I wonder if current generations soon won’t be able to find their bathrooms without a GPS. Do we ever stop to think global positioning systems find their locations per satellites — which line up their calculations with millions-of-light-years-away quasars and giant black holes?

Sorry, Lavinia. I know you have the best intentions in the universe.

But I can find black holes all by myself.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Would you rather ask directions or depend on a GPS?

The Amazing Corn Maze Adventure

In autumn, we Midwestern grandparents like to complicate our lives by taking our families to corn mazes.

On our first outing, my husband eyed me. “Some people need 12 hours to find their way out.”

“Ha!” I say.

But that’s all I can say. Maybe, I’ll exit before Thanksgiving. Or Christmas?

Like my mother before me, I possess zero sense of direction. Unfortunately, our daughter inherited something of our deficiency.

Her husband and mine took over. “No way are these kids getting lost with you.”

One grandson wailed, “I don’t wanna get lost with Mommy!”

His brother backed away. “Grandma’s trying get rid of us!”

The men hurried the kids into the maze. Onlookers, fingers poised to dial 911, glared at my daughter and me.

The maze looked friendlier. I have always liked rustling cornfields, with thousands of leafy stalks whispering autumn secrets. Once we entered, though, other participants vanished. Where, exactly, were we?

My daughter said, “Let’s retrace our steps. We went this way, didn’t we?”

At the next intersection, I boldly pointed the way. “We came from this direction.”

“You think so?”

“Uh …”

Cornstalks moaned with the wind. My skin prickled, but I summoned the confident tone that faked me through years of parenting. “As long as we see the barn, we’re fine.”

The only problem: the barn kept moving. Farther and farther away.

Suddenly, from the opposite direction, it pounced on us like a daytime goblin.

My daughter, who once hitchhiked a Mexican highway without fear, halted, eyes wide.

I checked my phone’s GPS.

“Recalculating …” The GPS Lady snickered. “Recalcu — bwahahaha!”

My daughter’s GPS Lady joined in. They loved the corn maze.

Us? Not so much.

We switched off those annoying voices. But those of our family? No. This corn maze tale would be repeated at holidays forever.

Even if we never returned to eat pumpkin pie. (Sniff.)

Finally, my daughter straightened her shoulders. “We’re going about this all wrong.”

“We are?”

“Sure. Let’s walk away from the barn. At the next fork, close your eyes. Pick a path, any path. At the next one, I’ll do the same.”

“Right! That always works with interstate ramps.”

We found an exit. Before relief gave way to gloating, the guys emerged from another.

“Grandpa and I figured the way out from the sun’s angles!” one grandson crowed. “Did you do that, Grandma?”

“You used a GPS.” My husband sounded as if we were running a Ponzi scheme.

No, we had used our own special system, based on navigational instincts those guys couldn’t begin to understand.

My mother would have been proud.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever experienced a corn maze adventure?