In my line of work, I spend a lot of time driving to places I don’t know. For some reason, I’ve never invested in a GPS. And so I wind up, from time to time, lost.
There are times when that is more frightening than others. When I’m going to a wedding, I always leave lots of time for the drive before the lots of time I need to prepare to go on with the wedding. But still, it can get a bit shaky, especially when couples have found the perfect place to marry which is back of beyond and outside of cell coverage. And of course even if one had cell coverage, if you’re in farmland alongside a herd o’ cows, what do you say about where you are?
But other times, I’m just not clear where I am and how to get to where I’m going from where I am.
If I had a GPS, she would tell me to turn around and go back to something that felt like an intersection. I suppose that might have its charm.
But what’s really quite wonderful in those “hmmmmm” moments is to find a place to stop and ask.
People like being helpful. It’s really a mitzvah to give them a chance. If you’re pleasant, and ask specifically for what you need, people will do their best to help you get where you need to go. And if they can’t help you, they will go out of their way to find someone who can help you. At the end of the exchange, everyone feels good about themselves and the other.
In London, when I was one of a gaggle of young American women, uncertain how to get to whatever our next destination was, I stopped a home-bound gentleman (complete with bowler, bumpershoot and newspaper) and asked for directions. He turned around and walked 4 blocks out of his way to get us sorted out. We were all smiling and grateful at the end of that exchange. (And this is the trip where I had a street name but no address for a cousin, and walked into a green grocer and asked if he knew of a red-headed american who lived in the area… “ginger-‘aired?” he asked. “Two doors down.” And that’s how my cousin Nancy and her young family wound up with 5 extra mouths to feed on a Sunday Evening.” Luck? Maybe. Kindess, absolutely!)
It’s almost always worked that way — well, except for once, but that’s another story, and all’s well that ends well with that story, as well. I do get anxious. But if I can calm my anxiety, I tend to have a great time and a wonderful exchange.
Which is not to say that I don’t like it when the directions work and the street and road signs you need are actually visible…
But the kindness of strangers is, thank you Blanche DuBois, a commodity on which one can gratefully rely. Pretty cool, eh?