Sunday, July 03, 2005

The Parable Of The Directions

I'm in an unfamiliar city, wandering home from a strangely familiar bar, when I'm accosted by this fellow. He's not obviously insane. He's carrying things in respectable-looking bags; they look more like a payload than a makeshift bedroll. On an otherwise dark and deserted street he approaches me, and he asks me for directions to [name of city elided] State University as we both stagger down towards the streetcar tracks.

I am as happy as a tourist who finally knows the answer, but my directions - consisting as they do largely of the phrase "head southeast!" - do not please him. "Do you know where you're going?" he asks, "Or are you just incoherent?"

Two options, not mutually exclusive. "Seriously," I say, pointing very seriously, "that way. Take [name of street elided] Street."

He looks unconvinced. "You couldn't give directions to a retard," he tells me.

"No, it actually is that way," I say, still feeling childishly happy, "Southeast of here."

Eventually, we're a block apart, yelling at each other. If any schoolkids were playing a midnight game of pickup lacrosse nearby - perhaps to improve their reflexes in the absence of the floodlights - they would be scarred for life by the language that we're using. The bitch of it is, I'm right. I know for a fact that the place he's trying to get to is ten minutes' walk southeast of here, that being the direction in which I'm heading. I'm angry because I shouldn't even have responded to this asshole, but the novelty of being able to give directions in this particular city overwhelmed me.

"You're just another American asshole," comes his response, "just like all these other Americans."

This is most unfair of all, especially to the Americans. "I'M NOT AN AMERICAN, YOU MORON!" I yell.


"TELL YOUR FUCKING GOVERNMENT THAT!" say I, as he boldy wanders off in the wrong direction. In other news, my visa expires on Monday.