While we drove around and I ignored his pleas for help, I explained that I was “teaching him a lesson,” but in all honesty there was really no lesson. I was just being a turd, seeing truly how far this would go. And it was worth it.
I’ll back up and explain….
My stomach was starting to growl from spending our lunch hour driving in large loops around town, so I was tempted to point out to Spaniel that we were a block away from our intended restaurant, yet again. As he pleaded with me “C’mon, man, I’m starving, where is this place?!” I could literally see the restaurant out of my passenger window. In fact, his stupid handsome face was pointed directly at the restaurant that he was trying to arrive at, as he turned his head to look at me on the right side of the car. But true to my previous threat, I held my ground and let him continue to struggle. I watched us take another wrong turn, steering us exactly in the wrong direction.
This wasn’t a new destination. We had gone to the same lunch place every week for a year. You see, Spaniel is “navigationally-challenged”. Being in a car puts him into some amnesiac state, and he arrives at his destinations with no idea what transpired between then and when he left. He literally got lost one time on his way home from work, heading to the same neighborhood that he’s lived in for years.
The story really takes a turn when you consider how smart Spaniel is in just about every other area of his life. Within moments of talking to him, you can tell he’s an educated professional, well-read, and socially engaging. He has an above-average IQ. But he is literally a special-needs kid when he gets behind the wheel. To be funny, when he introduces me to new people he casually mentions that I’m terrible with navigation.
I read this feature about pet skunks. Once you remove their stinky glands, they’re pretty good pets but have no natural defenses. Much like my friend, they have no homing sense – so if they get out of the house, they can’t find their way back. Spaniel and baby pet skunks both have soft hair, they smell really nice, are good company, and can’t find their own ass with two hands and a map.
Back to the lunch ride. Spaniel drove all over in random circles, doubling back to almost find it, then would drive farther away again. Hilarious and compelling. As he plead with me, I comforted him “Don’t worry bro, this will be good for the blog.” And I giggled the whole time.
Eventually, he randomly found a characteristically steep hill in north Arlington that was recognizable enough for him to figure out we were a couple blocks away from the place, and he got us there. We turned an 8-minute drive into a two-hour social experiment.
Imagine how scary it would be if every time you left your house, there was a possibility that you might not find your way home. I’d never leave the house. I picture Spaniel going out to check the mail one day and then years later we find him wandering around in Montana with an impressive beard.
I had a college friend who had a similar condition, Crazy Mike. But he had a good system for getting back home. He figured out that if he could just locate the Tower on the University of Texas campus, he could drive to it, and then follow a set route from there to his apartment nearby. This works great just so long as you never drive out of viewing distance of the Tower. It was a genius plan to accommodate his condition.
In the extreme opposite version of this condition, Jules’ mom has an extraordinary ability to know exactly the best path to any location at any time, in any city. We teasingly called her “Miss Mapquest” in college, and to this day she’s still better than Google Navigation is at arriving anywhere. Whenever we happen to be heading to the same destination at the same time, by the time I get there, she’s already done her taxes and taken a nap and has baked a cake.