I had to drive to Atlanta this past weekend for a work-related meeting. They’d strongly encouraged us to drive to avoid having to reimburse us for expensive airfares, and I said I’d drive unless I got a great last-minute fare on Delta. I did, in fact, get a great last-minute fare on Delta, but I got all twitchy and booked my flight for the wrong day. By the time I convinced Delta to give me a refund and went back to rebook, the flight was sold out. So I’d be driving.
Computer drama kept me in Lynchburg until nearly 8pm on Friday, and so that night I drove just past Spartanburg, SC, and got a room and slept for a few hours. I woke up early on Saturday morning and finished the trip with no trouble, then spent the next ten hours in meetings and events with the committee. I tell you all this so you know that when I left the Hyatt on Sunday morning, I was damn tired.
I decided that since I had to drive to Atlanta and back in one weekend, I’d reward myself with a trip to IKEA before I came back to Virginia. I’d been all responsible and plugged the address into GPS the night before so I’d be sure to make it there with minimal drama.
Problem: I-75 and I-85 in downtown Atlanta are all torn up and under construction, and some streets had been detoured and rerouted to accommodate the situation. It seemed okay, though. GPS guided me toward the edge of downtown and then told me to turn right. I was turning onto a street that had been rerouted, and the three far lanes were going left. The near lane was empty, and that’s the one I turned into.
Problem: THE NEAR LANE WAS ALSO GOING LEFT, as I learned when I’d fully committed to the turn and was greeted by a hundred blaring horns and a car headed right at me.
I didn’t think. I threw the Mazda into reverse and flew backwards around the corner, back to where I’d been before. Luckily, nothing had come up behind me while I was inadvertently risking my life and someone else’s. I was completely rattled and horrified and embarrassed, and literally sat at the light with my head in my hands until I heard a knock at my passenger-side window. I looked up. A homeless dude with a sign had watched the whole situation unfold.
“Where you tryin’ to go?” he said.
“I-I-I-I-KEEEEEE-A,” I managed to choke out. He told me I couldn’t go that way. I told him I’d figured that much out. He told me where to go to get straightened out again, and then asked me for some money to help the homeless.
I’ve been asked for money by homeless people dozens of times in my life, and usually handle it smoothly and quickly. On rare occasions I’ll give them money, but most often I’ll apologize and say that I don’t have cash (which is nearly always true, anyway) and then I’ll be on my way. That is not how I reacted this time.
This time, being asked for money launched me into a full-on, hysterical sobbing, snot-dripping, choking, gasping meltdown. I was crying so hard I couldn’t even form words to answer the guy. I just sat there and freaked completely the hell out.
And the homeless guy with the sign, apparently convinced I was bugfuck crazy, apologized, blessed me, and backed away from my car very, very slowly.
It’s an interesting day when you convince the homeless guy with the sign that YOU are the crazy one.