Lost and Found

I have a list of five things that I’ll never be good at: celebrity names, spellings, geography, politics, and directions. I’ve managed to squeeze my way out of conversations and situations that involve the first four, however, when it comes to directions it’s a whole different story. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve managed to get lost. And I hardly mean missing a turn or two. I mean ending up in a different State miles and miles away from the intended destination. One would assume that my car must be full of maps to make up for this weakness of mine. But you’ll be wrong. It’s almost like I want to be good at being bad at directions! I don’t carry any maps, with the exception of a DC map which I just recently acquired. The rest is just little post-it notes with scribbles on them, or from memory (which explains why I get lost all the time). The worst thing is it’s hard to hide this fact, especially when my friends or family are wondering why I’m still not there. Or when I miss a plane because I got lost getting to the airport. Or when I miss a dinner reservation. Or…I can really go on for eternity.

Yesterday I added a whole new chapter to my stories of getting lost.

It was Thursday and out of no where I decided to run home instead of taking the metro. I work in downtown DC and live in MD. There is a trail that connects the two and is mostly used by bike commuters. I didn’t have anywhere to be that evening, so running 7-8 miles didn’t really seem like a big deal. The plan was to run the trail from my office to a metro stop in MD and then take the train to my apartment which is about 5 miles further north. If I left at 5:00pm, I would no doubt be home eating a giant bowl of ice cream by 7:00pm. No big deal!

I happily trotted out of the office in my running gear. Since I hadn’t planned this, I was wearing a cotton t-shirt and shorts…not the best thing to run in on a hot humid day. I had my keys, phone, money, IDs, stuffed in the little pockets of the shorts. So my shorts slid down a little further each time I took a step forward. One of the worst things to be stuck with while running is inappropriate or uncomfortable clothing and my choices today qualified. I put clothing higher on the list than bad weather. Weather can be dealt with proper gear. But sloppy wet cotton shirt with heavy shorts wedging between your thighs is just not bearable. Believe me.

Regardless, I was still so happy to get on with this adventure. I plan on getting a bike soon, so this meant I would get a little preview of what my upcoming commute to work might look like. I was running along water on one side and the shade of beautiful trees on the other. What a perfect day (minus the shorts wedging).

Eventually I was getting shoved in the wild growth while the bike commuters zoomed by me. I saw a solution to this a little farther up where a gravel road went parallel to the bike path. I got on the gravel and picked up speed since I didn’t have to worry about getting run over. A few skinny trees and plants divided the two paths, but other than that, they went in the same direction. I was so in-tune with my running and music that I missed the part where the gravel road become a whole different trail that goes in a whole different direction, in a whole different state!!

There was still a lot of foot traffic on my trail and so I didn’t notice that I was going the wrong way. Unfortunately, people started disappearing and about 4 miles down I was the only one still running. I was a bit spooked but I decided to suck it up and told myself this is what trails look like! I decided to keep running till I came across a map.

Unfortunately there weren’t any maps or names or anything on this trail. After another 4 miles of nothing I was getting scared and very thirty! I didn’t have my hydration pack or a water bottle (another grave mistake). But I didn’t know I was going to run for this long, I was supposed to be out of this wilderness by now. So at around the 9th mile, I took a turn onto a beaten path that seemed to lead towards the noise of the road. Thankfully after about quarter of a mile it took me back to civilization, by which I mean a small liquor store and a post office.

I was in the middle of no where from the look of it! I got a bottle of water, but apparently I needed to buy at least $5 worth of items to use my card. So I bought some Gatorade, a big bottle of water, and a Clif bar. Then in my sweaty, stinky, and mouth-full-of-Clif state, I tried to get directions from the store clerk. I soon found out that these people had no idea where they lived either. They pointed me towards East and asked me to keep walking. The buses had stopped running at this point and the nice old lady on her way home from the liquor store, didn’t want to give me a ride. So I took my only option and started walking East with my two big bottles of water and gator (and don’t forget the shorts that kept wedging and sliding at the same time).

Lets just keep the story short here by saying that I walked/ran for another 10 miles before I got to a metro stop. By the time I got home it was 9:30pm! My legs felt like noodles and I looked like shit. I can’t believe that the poor people on the metro had to look at me and smell me. I was so delirious that I couldn’t help but laugh at this situation. I made a call to Devang telling him I was finally home (he was aware of my situation at about the 12th mile), and after eating my bowl of cereal, I was ready for bed. I slept pretty darn well that night.

Some people might wonder why I didn’t just take a cab, or call a friend to pick me up. I guess the best way I can explain this is that my sense of pride got in the way. I wanted to say I ran home, and damn it, I wasn’t gonna let this little fact of getting lost get in the way. I feel okay this morning. My legs are a little sore, but nothing too bad. I plan on taking the right trail next week and hopefully that story will end on a much happier note.

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Chika Gujarathi is a freelance writer based in Raleigh, NC. She writes about everything from travel, food, books, and family. Her current project includes a series of children's books to teach Hindi. She is a native Tar Heel who has also lived in Washington DC and Chicago.

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