I started out positive: I am driving to San Francisco airport, to pick someone up.
I have SFO phobia: the parking garage entrances, levels and roundabouts put Mad-Scientist Rat-Maze Creators to shame. The good news: it’s during the day. I can see the airport from the freeway. The bad news: it will be the height of rush hour traffic when I hit the section in which you must change freeways three times in a mile and a half.
It will be rush hour on all three freeways.
I can feel the anxiety building.
Coping strategy #1: Over Plan
- Remind self I can read. The freeway is littered with helpful signs saying “Airport, This Way”.
- Paper map: in car.
- Check SFO website for possible “renovation” detours: all clear.
- Test navigator, to make sure it’s working: FYI, new place has GOOD ice cream!
- Double check I have all car/cell plugs and ear piece: charged and ready.
- Print out of flight info: check
- Visualize my favorite parts of the drive: beautiful!
- Call Daisy, sob hysterically, moan “I’m LOST! I’m LOST!” (preparations include “pre-panicking”, so if I run into a glitch, I can remind myself I’ve already panicked: don’t need to do it again.)
- Daisy promises to be my backup, available by phone for consultation. She’s the best
- Stock the car with Diet Coke. Caffeine.
Coping strategy #2: Denial
- This is easy.
- I’m going to be fine.
- I will enjoy the drive.
- Hey, I’m leaving 3 hours early, in case I get lost. What could go wrong?
- I might even get there early enough to kill Zombies!
You can’t reason with a Phobia. They fight you for the neurological driver’s seat, and the best one can do is respond to the ensuing stupid, idiotic, embarrassing panic is to remind Phobia there are back ups to the back ups. I’ve over planned, Daisy is on call, paper maps, and a voice in my ear directing: “In two miles, take exit 43B and prepare to turn left.”
Once I’m on US 101 south to San Francisco, I roll my shoulders, tell myself to relax and enjoy the beautiful day. This goes incredibly well. I relax.
Smack in the middle of 101 (the only freeway to SF), my navigator says: recalculating route: take the Avalon drive exit.
There no Avalon Drive exit. There are no exits. Unless you count the one coming up in ten miles. I haven’t changed the route. Why recalculate?
Make the first legal U-Turn! Make the first legal U-Turn!
Ten miles later, I pull off, check the address in the navigator, guessing I accidentally hit wrong destination button.
The destination read-out: San Francisco Airport. I press the “Announce” button. Without a qualm, it says “recalculating route: make the first legal U-turn, take the freeway entrance on the right onto US 101 South, continue on for 43 miles”. Weird. That’s correct.
The navigator is completely silent for 22 more miles. I’m still on 101 when it ambushes me: recalculating route, make the next legal U-turn…
For Pete’s sake, I haven’t even hit the Golden Gate bridge yet. Check destination again: SFO.
I ignore navigator, keep driving. It shuts up. I shouldn’t hear more instructions until I’m over the bridge, ready to take 19th street and cut through Golden Gate Park.
In 2.5 miles, stay on US 101 south, merge onto Golden Gate bridge.
Good. It’s back to normal.
I’m in the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge when it says, alarmingly:
Recalculating route: make the next legal U-turn!
Not feeling particularly suicidal. Not going U-turn in the middle of the bridge.
My phobia whispers: I told you. I told you if you drive to SFO, you’re going to get lost and die in the wilderness.
My comeback: Yup, going to die in the wilderness of a major metropolitan city.
The navigator correctly guides me through the 3 quick-change freeway maze. Great!
I come to a huge sign: SFO Next Exit.
The navigator is silent. I wait for it to speak. Here’s the problem. The first exit is always wrong. Bad signage: you see the sign meant for the freeway parallel to you, not the one you are on. I need to take the second SFO Exit.
I pass the first SFO exit. As I shoot past the airport, I realize CalTrans must have changed the confusing sign.
I get off at the next exit, no idea how to turn around, or if there will be a corresponding airport exit going North.
The Evil Navigator speaks: recalculating route…
I want to slap it: it was silent at the correct exit. But. I follow instructions. Within 2 minutes I’m on Domestic Terminal Drive, winding deep into the bowels of the soul-sucking parking garage.
I take great joy in turning off the navigator.
I’m okay: I read the sign “Domestic Terminal” and wonder where they keep the Undomesticated Terminal.
I’ve always wanted to see an airport terminal in the wild.
Evil Navigator update: the battery on my cell phone won’t hold a charge, and I’ve been worried my powers of battery destruction have now extended to my cell. Nooooooo! Despite turning the Navigator off, it’s been telling me (haven’t worn ear piece) how to get to SFO since last Friday.