Hmmm... my Maryland book tour was a full month ago, but still recent enough that it's reasonable to write a bit about it, I think. Maryland is where I was born and raised, and where most of my extended family lives. So, at the end of April, I spent a week there-- had some lovely school and college and bookstore visits, but spent most of the time driving around, somewhat lost, in a silver economy rental car.
At home in Fort Collins, Colorado, it's easy to get around-- most streets are fairly flat, straight, and on a grid, with neat ninety-degree angles, going directly East-West or North-South. You can never get hopelessly lost, because the mountains are always to the west, which helps you orient yourself. The sky is big and open and the trees aren't dense enough or the buildings tall enough to block your view of the mountains.
Maryland is a different story. It's like a thick green jungle compared to here, lots of lush foliage and springtime rain and clouds to utterly confuse you. And the roads-- hilly, winding, completely nonsensical-- and me, in the rental car, with my stack of Mapquests, trying desperately to figure out where the %&$! I was.
The most severe getting-lost episode occurred when I was driving from my friend Andrea's bachlorette picnic-yoga extravaganza at an arboretum (tree place) somewhere in northern Baltimore to a party at the Candlelight Inn, just outside of Baltimore in some other direction. There was no reason for me to go through a fairly sketchy section of downtown Baltimore, but I found myself driving around aimlessly there, with no gas stations to stop at for directions, or even convenience stores (there were a few, but they were boarded up.) I was supposed to be at the party in five minutes (did I mention the party was for me and my book? that my parents invited the whole extended family gang who drove from all parts of Maryland to get there on time?) I was utterly lost, fallen off all of my Mapquest maps.
And then I remembered my brand-spanking new cellphone!
I pulled over into a weedy, trash-strewn dirt lot and tried to remember how to turn off the locked keypad and find the address book and then dial the number. (Luckily, the night before, my two good friends, the Amandas, had given me and Andrea a crash course in Cell Phone 101 as we were waiting for a seat outside a happenin' Thai restaurant in DC.) So I called my dad (he was at the restaurant, waiting for me along with all my other relatives) and blubbered for a couple minutes and then he calmly directed me out of the boarded-up liquor-store neighborhood. Within twenty minutes I was in the parking lot of the Candlelight Inn, only about a half hour late, drenched in nervous sweat and looking pretty darn haggard when I arrived at my party. (Things got much, much better after a few crabcakes and a glass of wine...)
So, as much as I'd feared my cell phone was the beginning of the end when I signed that contract at the mall before my trip, I must admit it did come in handy. I haven't used it since except once at Safeway to ask Ian if we needed barbeque sauce, and maybe one or two other times, but I feel a special fondness for it now, since it saved the day (with my dad's help.)