I went to a meeting the other day, and I consulted the internet about it the night before. That’s the modern version of killing a chicken and consulting the entrails to find out how your trip’s going to go.
The internet entrails told me I’d need one hour and one minute to get there.
I figured I’d allow myself an extra ten minutes and be heroically early.
In the morning, I forgot about the ten minutes, but how many meetings start on time anyway? I punched the post code into the sat nav I stole from Wild Thing because I don’t believe in them unless I need one, in which case see I steal hers. That gives me access to both a sat nav and the moral high ground.
The sat nav spit the post code back out. I punched it in again. The sat nav offered me a list of alternative post codes, some of which were close but close wasn’t what I needed. I could find the town without the damned thing. What I needed was the final details.
We went through this several times until it accepted the post code. I will, of course, swear that I entered it correctly all sixteen times and that the sat nav was both pigheaded and wrong for the first fifteen, but you probably won’t believe me. I’m not sure I believe me either.
I was now going to be late. I was also now ready to accept that you can’t get from my house to Pool, where the meeting was, in one hour and one minute. And I’d kind of known that the night before, but I wasn’t ready to question the wisdom of the chicken entrails then.
I drove, telling myself I’d make up lost time. This was, of course, a crock. (A crock, my writers group tells me, is an Americanism. It may also be as out of date as I am, so if you need guidance, allow to me ask you, ever so delicately, to imagine what I’m implying is inside the crock.) Unless you’re on one of our few four-lane highways (or the occasional, very short, three-lane stretch), you have to be a whole lot crazier than I am if you’re going to make up time around here.
At the Pool turnoff, I realized that the sat nav hadn’t been speaking to me since I left the house. Why hadn’t I noticed? Because I don’t enjoy her conversation, so I hadn’t missed it. Our sat nav, by the way, is a her, and her name’s Dorothy, and she’s been losing her voice a lot lately. The last time it happened, Wild Thing fought with her until she started speaking again but she—Wild Thing, that is—wasn’t sure what she’d done, so I stood no chance of reproducing it. It involved a lot of swearing, which I can reproduce effortlessly, but I’m guessing that wasn’t the effective part. And I didn’t have time to wrestle with the sat nav anyway—I was already heroically late—so I drove into Pool trying to keep one eye on the little brown arrow.
Tell me, I begged the universe, that this isn’t a part of the county where sat navs don’t work.
I didn’t expect the universe to answer and it didn’t. Begging the universe is just one of those things I do to pass the time when I’m coming unglued. I fully expected the little brown arrow to direct me into an abandoned mine shaft or the frozen food aisle of the nearest supermarket. That optimism meant I was ready for it when the little brown arrow told me to turn where there wasn’t a street.
You can’t fool me, I told Dorothy, and I drove on.
The hell she couldn’t. The little brown arrow disappeared.
I turned around and tried again, somehow expecting to get different information this time. The little brown arrow still wanted me to turn onto a non-street, but it was at least paved, so I tried it and ended up in a supermarket parking lot.
I turned around before we got to the frozen food aisle and I drove back to where the arrow had disappeared, pulling into the parking lot of a small business. I walked inside and threw myself on their mercy.
They must’ve been used to this. Not only were they kind, they’d heard of the complex I was looking for and gave me usable directions.
“Sat navs,” I said, trying to look as befuddled as, in fact, I was. I felt—I have no idea why—that I owed them that.
“Sat navs,” they said, nodding and looking wise.
I got to the address, which turned out to be a Free Public Attraction (please note the capital letters, because they’re not mine; I’ve borrowed them from a sign I passed) about Cornish mining. With a not-at-all-free parking lot. I hadn’t counted on that and hadn’t brought much change, but I plugged in what I had, which was enough to carry me to the 11 a.m. break, when I might be able wangle change out of someone somewhere.
Or leave if the meeting turned out to be as pointless as I sort of suspected it would be.
I could probably have used my phone and credit card to pay, but (remember the internet and the chicken entrails?) I was late.
So in a gentle Cornish mizzle, I walked in through what must once have been a working mine complex and now that the mining’s gone is a tourist attraction. I thought melancholy and ironic thoughts about hard, dangerous work and low pay and tourist attractions but didn’t have a lot of time for them because I found the right building and went into a tasteful and (I assumed) expensive modern lobby where there was no sign pointing me to my meeting, only one saying Memory Café.
You know about memory cafes? They’re for people with some degree of dementia, to orient them to I have no idea what. Reality, I suppose, which at the moment didn’t strike me as a particularly wondrous gift.
I found an office and asked a woman about my meeting. She gave me a blank look. I produced my agenda.
“That’s tomorrow,” she said.
I could have gone to the memory café but reality wasn’t looking particularly good so I drove home.