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Turn left at pile of dirt, then get lost

Published January 11, 2007


WESLEY CHAPEL -Armed with a brand new GPS, I set out Monday for Wiregrass Ranch High School for a first glimpse of the new place.

And I got lost.

This is particularly sad considering I live only a few miles from the school. And my daughters used to go to school right down the block from there. And, well, I cover high schools for a living.

But there I was, driving with one hand, swerving in and out of traffic, yelling into my cell phone, swearing every other word as I demanded directions from some lackey ... errr, co-worker ... back at the office.

I could have found the Wiregrass Museum of Art in Dothan, Ala., quicker than I finally found the school.

The GPS was supposed to fix my penchant for driving down dead end streets and knocking on the wrong doors and picking up the wrong kids from the wrong babysitter oh, it was just that one time.

But it led me astray, taking me to a 2909 Mansfield Blvd. site that was nothing but dirt and either the remnants of a parking lot or the beginnings of one.

Surely, this had to be a common mistake. Wiregrass Ranch principal Ray Bonti said he hadn't heard of anyone getting lost on the way to his school, but he guessed it was possible.

Somehow, that didn't make me feel any better.

He tried even harder. He said more roads around the school were still being built, that Mansfield Boulevard was going to be bigger and longer by the spring, and that the school would be a breeze to find, but there would be some "adjustments" for those not familiar with the area.

He lost me at "more roads."

But getting lost, it's what I do best. That, and writing hilariously introspective columns that mock my very existence on this planet.

On a good day, I only have to make a U-turn or two.

On a bad day, I'm working my cell phone, begging someone to Google me out of the woods. And by woods, I mean actual trees.

My wife thought she had fixed this with GPS, a gift designed to end those frantic calls for directions.

"Weren't you just there yesterday?" she'd ask, all smug.

For a while, the GPS was her saviour. I made my way around Disney over the holidays without incident. I could now run to the store for groceries and make it back home. When I crave Mexican food, it's just a touch away.

When I need to find a brand new high school built in brand new area, turns out there's this thing called an "update," and before you use your GPS, you're supposed to download current maps.


(Did I mention my inability to follow directions also includes written ones often included by the manufacturer of products like a GPS?)

Monday, a trip that should have been 10 miles became 25, and people were starting to wonder why that silver Nissan with the man with the crazy look in his eyes was driving back and forth while banging his head against the steering wheel.

Mothers rushed their children inside. Dads hustled to the garage to get their shotguns. Buzzards circled overhead.

It should be noted that the message when calling Wiregrass Ranch - my last desperate attempt - said "come out and see us", but didn't give directions.

Callers wanted to know Tuesday why I hadn't included directions to the school in a story in the paper that day.

Trust me, you didn't want them.

Unless, of course, you're fascinated by the great artists of Dothan.

John C. Cotey can be reached at 727-869-6261, or Oh, and Wiregrass Ranch? Enter either of the Meadow Pointe entrances, take that road all the way to Mansfield, take a left and follow it past John Long Middle School, take the first left past the school, and it's on your right. Or was it the left?

[Last modified January 11, 2007, 05:31:24]

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