My closest family and friends know only too well that I can display some challenging behaviour when it comes to cleanliness and tidiness. Those unfortunate enough to work with me will testify to this, especially when preparing properly for events and life’s duties. I like things to be in order (this is an understatement), so a recent experience was a significant and stark reminder to me to get my head out from between my buttocks.
I had returned from a trip away to a third-world country, where I had experienced a lot of trouble finding various destinations. The maps I had were wrong and in no way represented the reality of where I was. In my broken attempt at speaking in the native tongue, I resorted to drawing maps in sand and dirt to ask the locals for directions. I tried everywhere to get a map but was told, “None exist!” The line from a Talking Heads song kept tormenting me, as it played over and over in my head like an ear worm … “You’re on the road to nowhere”.
Nonetheless, I got to where I needed to get to eventually, recording that this one trip, which should have been a two-hour journey, took me eight hours because of my sheer bloody-minded stubbornness. At one point, I had stopped in a ghetto-type area and had the map on the bonnet of my tiddly hire car. As I stood there scratching my head like a flea-bitten dog, a kind man with a huge pick-up truck and a few words of English engaged me.
“Hawhere you go?” he said.
I replied, “I am trying to get to …” and I pointed to the map. The man looked at me in what I thought was a confused way. He looked at my car … and then back at me … and exclaimed,
“It no possible with this car!”
I wasn’t settling for that, so with indignant objection to his response I said, “Yes, it is possible, can you show me the track?”
That poor man was trying so hard to spare this Westerner a disastrous experience and yet, I was determined to do things my way. I ended up driving about seventy unnecessary kilometres over donkey tracks, through a river, over mountains and, at one point, what seemed like off the edge of the world. Will I ever learn?
Five days later, on returning home, I was chatting to a mate of mine who is due to go to the same place in a few months’ time. Naturally, he asked me about the trip. Would you believe, it was only whilst sipping on a cold beer with my buddy that I remembered I had actually been to this place about 15 years previously and made great preparations for the trip. So, good were my preparations in fact that, all of a sudden, mid-sentence, I was compelled to get up and go to my book shelf where I have hundreds and hundreds of maps … and guess what? There in front of my eyes was an excellent map of the country that I had just returned from.
And so the humble pie was dished up. This usually organised man had overlooked a preparation and small detail that could have spared me a lot of time and a considerable amount of petrol. This was a reminder to me that when you think you’ve got all the bases covered, sometimes it’s worth looking again.
Maybe though, it’s these adventures that help me learn that if I act with a little more humility and get my head out of ‘where the sun doesn’t shine’, just maybe I’ll take something useful from other people’s advice.
With peace, love and hope,
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