East or West, My Couch Is Best

More adventures from the “Jocelyn As Idiot Runner” Files:

I am the kind of person who can get lost between my house and my job (where I’ve worked for six years). I can take a wrong street on my way to Cub Foods and end up doing an 18-point turn to back myself away from a creek I never knew existed. I can head out, confidently, to find the mall, only to discover that I’m in a small touris town 26 miles north of here.

In short, I’m severely directionally challenged. It’s so bad that my Wee Kiddles, small children who can barely get themselves onto a toilet without help, are able to call out, as we drive, “Maaaa, you were supposed to turn right back there.” Yea, whatever. At least I can myself onto the toilet unaided–knock wood.

So it was with no small trepidation that I challenged myself to undertake a new sport last year: orienteering. An overview of orienteering would go like this: throw yourself out into the woods with only a confusing map and a compass and try to find small, hidden flags as fast as you can. There is a reason why all competitors are required to carry a whistle: HELPPPP, I’VE FALLEN, AND I CAN’T GET OUT OF THE LUMPY HUMMOCK!

Before starting my first orienteering race in Big Woods State Park, I made darn certain that my husband was acquainted with the sound of my particular whistle, so he could come find me after 10 hours had elapsed and before my need for a hamburger and chocolate caused me to wring the neck of a squirrel and cobble together a spit on which to roast it.

And then I was off. The clock started, I copied the “control” points onto my topographical map, and I dashed, with great enthusiasm, into the woods.

Several moments later, I re-appeared, turned in a circle several times, scratched my head, and then dashed off into the woods again…in the opposite direction.

And then, for the next hour, I stopped, scratched, and dashed with regularity, looking over the map and cross-referencing what I was seeing in the woods with the symbols on the map. Was I standing in a “dry ditch” or and “erosion gully”? Was that mound in front of me an “earth bank” or a “small knoll”?

Eventually, I managed to find all seven control points and punch my little orienteering card each time (and I am big enough to admit that I only found a couple of the control points by tagging behind other muddy souls who were in my same race).

At the end, when I came blistering out of the woods into the bright sunshine, I felt as though days had elapsed, not a mere hour; the journey had been that complex. I was a new woman, one who had learned deep lessons while under the canopy of the oaks: nature is confounding; some people either “got it” or they “ain’t” when it comes to directionality; and I should never again leave the safety of my couch.

By the way, if you have any extra time today, please come find me. I’m lost.

All I wanted to do was walk to my kitchen after writing this, but now I’m in a really small, dark place…wait a minute, I just pulled a Batman action figure out from my armpit…ooh, and there’s a Blue’s Clues camera resting on my clavicle…and some legos stuffed up in my nostrils…I guess I’m in my kids’ toybox.

Bring food. And a compass.








15 responses to “East or West, My Couch Is Best”

  1. velvet girl Avatar
    velvet girl

    This is hysterical! I couldn’t help but laughing out loud.

    One thing about getting lost all the time is that you get to see new and exciting places on a regular basis. The problem is finding your way back, though, isn’t it?

    Thank you so much for the laughs!


  2. Rocco Avatar

    I am with you on the directionally challenged front, although something happens to me when I get behind a steering wheel and I suddenly unable to admit I have any problems whatsoever with my sense of directions. In the industry we call it anosognosia. My wife calls it being a pig-headed male who won’t ask for directions. Maybe if I give it that medical label, she’ll soften her stance and realize it’s not all my fault.

    Yall seriously are tougher up there in Duluth. A tough race here where you have to “rough it” here in the Twin Cities means a) some parts of the course may not be paved, b) the post-refreshments may not include donuts and chicken noodle soup and c) we get cotton t-shirts instead of performance gear.

    Good luck getting out of the tots’ box. There’s worse places to be lost.

  3. WanderingGirl Avatar

    At Thanksgiving, I got lost on my way home to my parents’ house. I got lost close to it. And they’ve lived there for 15 years. (And I was in high school when we moved there.) See? You’re not the only one!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I’m enjoying yours!

  4. mist1 Avatar

    My dad made declarations about toys that were banned from the house based on what he found in his armpits and heels. No Legos. No jacks. No Barbie shoes.

  5. Odat Avatar

    I can always get where I’m going but can never reverse directions! So whereever I go, I just stay! lol

  6. Dan Avatar

    CONGRATULATIONS! You did it! Very funny story, by the way.

    But when you say “before my need for a hamburger and chocolate caused me to wring the neck of a squirrel” I have an easy solution … buy a nice backpack and put plenty of hamburgers and chocolate inside it.

    Then you may even want to get lost. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. Jazz Avatar

    Being directionally challenged myself, I feel your pain. However, I can’t for the life of me understand whatever possessed you to think orienteering would be a good idea. You could’ve gotten lost and ended up in Canada!

  8. Van Avatar

    mmm, chocolate squirrel.

    armpit batman is the coolest of all the batmans btw.

  9. Le Nightowl Avatar
    Le Nightowl

    Great post title, for starters ๐Ÿ™‚
    I can fully identify with this directional issue.
    Actually, I’ve come to terms with this… deficiency, ever since I read this entertaining & informative book:
    “Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps”
    One thing is sure, you know your way around a blog post ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. hyacinths and biscuits Avatar
    hyacinths and biscuits

    I was not aware that orienteering was something you could actually do for a hobby! That’s crazy! I thought it was just something you did to save yourself when you got lost in Antarctica and have to drag your whole family away from the plane crash and somehow find safety before you all die. With that link you put in there, I see that there’s an orienteering club in my city. Maybe I will have to seek them out…
    And I actually don’t eat frosting out of the can. Okay, I’m lying, I regularly dip animal crackers into chocolate icing…which reminds me, I’m out of both. At any rate, I actually kind of wish that’s why my ex broke up with me. “Yea, it was a good year or so, but ultimately I just couldn’t give up the frosting and he cut me loose.”


  11. Polyman3 Avatar

    I used to be an outside salesman for a lawn company. I swear nobody
    can get as lost as me trying to find streets, and that’s with maps, compases and the stars.

    So I know exactly what your talking about…and I’ve heard of
    the orientation sport. Maybe if you do it enough, you’ll get better at it.

  12. Steven Novak Avatar
    Steven Novak

    I’m not going to come find you.

    It’s the only way you’ll lean.

    TOugh love. That’s what it’s called. Tough love. ๐Ÿ˜‰


  13. Jocelyn Avatar

    Velvet–I absolutely agree about the adventure of being lost. Once I got old enough to drive, I quickly learned to embrace that atittude.

    Rocco–Yea, you Twin Citians are some serious pussies. I’ll bring you a light saber from the toy box next time I see you.

    Wanderinggirl–I love commiseration. Maybe we’ll both be lost in the same place, at the same time, one day, and we’ll meet!

    Mist 1–Your dad: what a wet blanket.

    Odat–Way to be where you are!

    Dan–How weird that you knew about the hamburger/chocolate emergency backpack I keep stashed in the closet.

    Jazz–I quite often wonder what is possessing me. But after the fact, I don’t have regrets, so I guess it’s okay. If I ever get so lost I end up in Quebec, I’m going to stand and holler “JAAAAAZZZ” really loudly. Leave your rolling chair and come find me, eh?

    Van–My son has asked for Armpit Batman for Christmas. Too bad I already bought him Foot-arch Spiderman.

    Le Nightowl–You are too kind; thanks for the book tip!

    Hyacinths–Frosting plays a bigger role in most break-ups than people are willing to acknowledge. If anyone wonders what you and I are talking about, visit Hyacinths’ blog.

    Polyman3–Does the title Outdoor Salesman mean you, em, sold grass?

    Steven–You heartless cad. The prison system has work for you.

  14. Drywall Mom Avatar
    Drywall Mom

    Love the name. Same as my daughters.

  15. Glamourpuss Avatar

    Hmmm, orienteering? ‘The triumph of hope over experience’ comes to mind. But you are one brave woman – it’s the sort of thing I’d only attempt in a sedan chair – heels and forest floors don’t mix well.


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