Illustration by Carly Jean Andrews

The Last Time We Were Completely Lost

We may live in a Waze world, but some of us will never stop getting lost. We asked some of the MEL staff about the last time they were adrift in this world, physically or otherwise, and were surprised to find that technology hasn’t seemed to remedy the age-old problem of making the wrong turn. From an existential crisis to waking up in a closet, it seems that losing your way is just as easy as it has always been. (Sorry, Google Maps.)

C. Brian Smith, Staff Writer: A couple weeks ago, I awoke to the horror of a fatally cracked iPhone screen, the result of some careless flailing mid-sleep arm gestures. After that I was without GPS for nearly a week, and was lost for much of that time. For instance: On Friday night, I spent two hours trying to find a friend’s party at the end of a narrow street in the Hollywood Hills, and even drove all the way back down the hill to find the nearest gas station—which, in the end, was two miles away. Of course, the gas station guy had never heard of the street. When I finally did find the party, an older friend took pity on me, walked me to his car, popped the trunk and gave me his old Thomas Guide, a monstrosity of spiral-bound atlases with detailed, gridded street maps of Greater Los Angeles. I used it to locate uBreakiFix, an iPhone repair shop in Pasadena the following day (page 38, grid 13F).

Josh Schollmeyer, Editor-in-Chief: In my recent quest to make healthy my default setting, I’ve begun running every morning. But because none of it comes easy — the running, the getting up early or the combination of the two — I’ve signed up for a sprint triathlon. Setting some sort of bucket list-y impossible goal for yourself is all the motivation you need and all that shit, right?

Anyway, to properly work off everything I’ve stuffed my face with over the last few years, I have — what else? — an app that tells me exactly how far I must run each day. And lately, these are distances that reach the outer edges of my familiarity with my neighborhood. Or at least the three-mile radius I typically labor through. And so, one morning last week, I had no fucking clue where I was — only that I needed to move just one more mile before accomplishing that day’s goal. The problem was, per Waze, I was 2.5 miles from home, which meant getting there would total roughly 1.5 miles more than I’d ever run in my life.

I thought about getting an Uber. But there was the matter of my scent, which I was sure would leave more of a lingering stench in the driver’s car than a bag of Burger King. Plus, having someone else bail me out when shit got tough was the complete antithesis of what I was punishing myself for in the first place. I mean, for Christ’s sake, I’m about to attempt to swim half a mile in open water, bike another 12 miles and then run a 5k. I could make it another fucking 1.5 miles. If not, there would be as much regret in that Uber as B.O.

So I did. Barely. It was if I were rollerblading in wet cement. And I probably looked as though I was about to have a stroke. But whatever: I found my way home with my feet moving at a (slightly) faster pace than if I were walking. Which took me to a place I’d never known before (physically at least) and counted as serious progress.

Ian Lecklitner, Staff Writer: I existentially “lose” myself all the time — you know, stuff like: What am I doing with my life? And: Do I actually enjoy the direction I’m headed? This existential dread struck right on cue this past Sunday evening after sharing half a medium deep-dish pizza and an order of fries with a friend. I was driving home, and I suddenly became depressed. So when I got home, I watched this easy-to-follow anime show I found on Netflix called Mushishi. The show follows characters who live really simple lives with set purposes. I don’t normally watch stuff like that, but the simplicity of it brings me back to reality when I’m feeling overwhelmed and “lost.”

Alana Hope Levinson, Deputy Editor: The last time I was truly lost was also the first. I was 5 years old. Growing up, when my grandfather was alive, my family had a tradition of going to Las Vegas every Mother’s Day weekend. His gambling obsession scored us all free rooms at the Excalibur, a mid-level medieval-themed hotel on the strip.

For most of my childhood I had no idea why grownups actually went to Las Vegas; I was blinded by the Excalibur’s more innocent offerings. It had an incredible arcade, a buffet, and most importantly, the most beautiful aqua-blue pool I’d ever seen. Every day I’d wake up way too early, throw on a swimsuit, pull an inner-tube around my waist and beg my mom to take me down to the pool as soon as possible.

Usually this went off without a hitch, but for some reason, on this day, I was over-eager. I ran ahead of the gang and straight into an open elevator, failing to find the KEEP OPEN button before the doors closed without them. I started crying hysterically, before eventually being rescued by a random couple who somehow reconnected me with my family. There wasn’t anything that insane about this experience, but it was the very first time I felt that particular gut-punch of disorientation and panic that comes from getting lost. Nothing has ever really compared.

Andrew Fiouzi, Editorial Assistant: Not long ago, I signed myself up to make a speech at one of my closest friend’s wedding rehearsals — something I hadn’t fully thought through, but felt I should do since the rest of his groomsmen were unwilling to volunteer. I’m not the most inspiring public speaker, so I decided to get a little help from a trusted friend who lives in an emerald-green bottle better known as Jameson. The speech itself went pretty well — or so I was told; I don’t exactly remember what I said.

The next morning at around 6 a.m., however, I woke up in what I initially thought was a coffin — it was pitch black and dead silent. I was standing, but it took me a second to realize I was on two feet. Afraid to scream out, I began flailing my arms, hoping to come into contact with something that would clue me into where I was. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I happened upon a doorknob. I cracked the door open as quietly as I could mainly because I still had no idea where the fuck I was. It turned out I was in the hotel bathroom and, though I’m embarrassed to admit it, I had fallen asleep standing up, perhaps midstream.

Since I still wasn’t sure whose room I was in, I quietly let myself out of the bathroom, grabbed my clothes and left. To this day, I can’t account for the hours between midnight and 6 a.m. that night. Thanks, Jameson, old friend.

Serena Golden, Managing Editor: The last time I remember getting really, truly, hopelessly lost was in 2011, when I was on Birthright. We were staying in Tel Aviv, and most of my group was out drinking at some bar about a mile from our hostel. I didn’t feel like staying out, so I decided to head back to the hostel — on foot, the same way we’d gotten to the bar.

Of course I was lost within minutes, and the neighborhood in which I found myself got scarier and scarier: vaguely industrial, utterly dark, without street lights. I couldn’t see much but high concrete walls covered in broken glass and barbed wire. Realizing I might be in danger, I used the pay-as-you-go flip phone I’d been issued by the trip organizers to call my then-boyfriend in New York, at 39 cents a minute, to see if he could get on Google Maps and help me find the hostel. But the little bit of information I could provide wasn’t enough for him to figure out where I should go, and as I wandered ever deeper into god-knows-where, I realized I was — of course! — being followed.

I hung up the phone and started looking for a hiding place. There wasn’t much around, but after a few blocks I arrived at a building with some sort of courtyard in front, where a huge plant was growing. I quickly ducked into the courtyard and crouched down behind the plant, holding my breath as the man walked on by. He was clearly aware he’d lost me, but unable to see where I’d gone — it was very, very dark.

As soon as he was out of sight I darted out and jogged back the way I’d come — not toward the hostel, since I still had no idea where it was, but in the direction of the brightly lit cluster of bars where I knew I’d be safer. Once I was back in that more populated part of town, I was able to hail a passing cab. I hopped in and gave the driver the name of the hostel — as, of course, I knew I should have done in the first place.