How Not to Ask Directions (by Terrence Kenneth van Ettinger)

Asking for directions can be a bit unpredictable, especially when you can’t see above eye level. THis is the lesson I learned in May of 2007. I’d only lived in Anchorage perhaps six weeks, and was still rather unfamiliar with the area. Intending to save myself time after work, I was going to stop at Holiday and pick up a thing or two and then take the Number 7 bus the rest of the way back to my new apartment. Needless to say I have absolutely no recollection of what I bought at that convenience store. What I do recall, however, is what resulted from my failed attempt at making sense of the directions the Holiday staff gave me when I asked where the bus stop was.

After wandering Spenard in search of the stop and having no success, I decided it was time, yet again, to seek guidance. At the next sign of life, I would pose the same question that had met with failure before; maybe this time the person would actually be able to *see* the bus stop. I believed my patience to have paid off as I heard the welcome sound of footsteps approaching behind me.

Upon turning around and addressing the source of the sound, I saw what I took to be two fellow pedestrians coming toward me. I was in for quite a surprise. A slight shift of my head revealed to me that, while my judgment had been accurate on the number of legs, I had greatly mistaken the rest. Yes, there were, in fact, four legs, but only one body. Though I managed to keep my gait and bearing normal, my thoughts were racing faster than a skier down Alyeska. “I hope it’s not a bear…I don’tt’t think it’s bulky enough to be a bear…but then I could be wrong…even if it’s a dear or something those antlers could do some damage…”

I was spared from these thoughts by a woman across the street who, when she saw me and my four-legged follower, did me the favor of identifying it as a moose. Well, at least now these four long legs and their accompanying body and head had a name. I was preparing to take her advice of staying put and letting the moose go on its way, when a man drove up in his pick-up and also proceeded to inform me of my shadower’s identity. I explaned to him that I and the woman across the way had just been having the same conversation, and asked him the same question that had started this whole encounter in the first place: where *was* that bus stop? Rather than take chances on what the moose might decide to do, he insisted on on driving me the rest of the way back to my apartment.

I suppose you could say the moose did, in a way, answer me, even if it wasn’t exactly the question I’d asked. The moral of the story: make sure you’re talking to something your own size before asking directions.

This is an original work posted by permission from the author. This work is not to be reproduced or replicated in any form without the express written consent of the author.


Terrence Kenneth van Ettinger lives in Anchorage.

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