Streetwise and Fancy Free

I don’t drive in D.C., not on purpose anyway. I ended up there once completely by accident. I missed my exit because like an idiot, I used my turn signal. Served me right. I somehow landed in “the bad part” of the city. I was fortunate enough to find several ladies who were just standing around on the corner. I knew they weren’t the neighborhood watch, but I figured if anyone would know how to get out of there it would be them. I pulled over to ask for directions. When you are desperate and stick out like a sore thumb you can’t be choosy about who you ask for help, or can you? I decided to squash that internal debate. Who was I to judge? After all, I was lost.

The lady that walked up to the car was extremely nice, although understandably cautious. The first question she asked me was “Are you a cop?” when I rolled down my automatic window. I just looked at her and said “Have you ever seen an undercover police car this dirty on the inside”? She peeked her head in my window and saw my mountain of empty water bottles, gum wrappers, a straw, a lone glove, and several empty coffee cups. She threw her head back and laughed. I had the tremendous fortune to get lost in a non-judgmental zone! Who knew that such a place existed in what was considered to be the worst part of town? I certainly didn’t. That’s something that you won’t find on any Google Map, I can tell you that much!

Apparently I appeared harmless enough that she relaxed, and put her elbows on the door. She asked me what I wanted. The first words out of my mouth were “A million dollars and a vacation in Hawaii”. She responded “Girl, you and me both!” We both laughed at that one! Here we were, two strangers who didn’t know each other having a conversation that was free of judgement. It was extraordinary! Imagine that. Imagine a world where you can get lost and actually speak to a live human being without a predefined label! I didn’t have to press five million buttons to get it, I only had to press one; and that was the button for my automatic window!

We have all this “helpful” technology these days. Those voice activated apps never work for me, especially not when I am driving. When I open the app and say “find such and such” I usually end up coughing or sneezing, or the app picks up some song playing on the radio in the background and decides to throw in some random word of its choosing. It’s like playing a game of “Sadistic Driving Direction Madlibs”, only the loser’s parting gift is not a lifetime supply of macaroni and cheese. Instead, the contestant gets sucked into a time warp where any chance of arriving at the destination point on time is lost in a black hole. You also “win” getting stuck in traffic, unplanned extra mileage being added to the trip, lots of helpful hand suggestions from fellow motorists, and the lovely voice of your mom in your head saying “You really should have used the bathroom before you left the house”. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a mute button for your negative thoughts? I personally happen to think that one exists, but you have to be willing to press it. That’s the hard part sometimes.

My wonderful D.C. lady ended up giving me the best directions. It was more extraordinary that she even gave me her cell phone number and told me to call her if I got lost again! I’ll never forget her or that moment as long as I live. I might not have been street smart that day, but that lady redefined for me the meaning of the phrase “street wise”. I will be forever grateful.

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