Pennsylvania: home of the cheese steak, the Amish, and the FBI’s most wanted killer, Eric Frein.
Driving along those long highways through Pennsylvania, there are many billboards with Frein’s face saying he is on the loose and to contact the authorities if he is seen. This doesn’t set a good tone for my first week in the Quaker State.
It was a Tuesday and I just finished meeting with high schools for the day. It was time to head back to the hotel. Since I am deep in the middle of rural Pennsylvania, I of course use my GPS to get around. It is like my lifeline on the road; without it I am completely lost. I push the power button, but nothing happens. I push it again, nothing happens.
When is the right time to start panicking in a situation? Do you think things through first before the fear sets in or is it an instant reaction? It varies for people, but for myself, the stress is almost instant. I’m in the middle of nowhere with a missing killer on the loose.
I call the Admissions Office and ask for some directions. Panicking on the inside, I sloppily write them down on the back of an envelope I found in the rental. The hotel is an hour away, let’s try to figure this without getting lost and killed.
I try to leave the high school and the first turn I make is the wrong one. After going 10 minutes in the wrong direction, I go back to the high school, go inside and ask the secretary at the main office if she could print out some directions for me. She was a saint and printed two copies for me, just in case.
Now we are rolling. I leave again and start off making the correct first turn.
I’m reading these paper directions while trying to drive like I’m on some 20th-century road trip. This is my first time using directions on paper, so the stress remains deep within my chest.
After an hour, but what seemed like all day, I made it back to my hotel in one piece and feeling grateful that I’m still alive, but still nervous because I had no navigation. Having to print out directions for every school I go to would make my life so much more inconvenient.
After calling my supervisor, I got permission to go to the nearest Best Buy and pick up a new GPS. The store was five minutes away, but it took me a half an hour to get there. I guess I’m not so good with directions.
With only a few more weeks left in my travels, I am grateful I have survived the trip so far. I know running into cop killers is very unlikely, but when the only voice you hear for most of the day is your GPS, your mind starts to wander.
One more week in Pennsylvania and then it’s off to New Jersey for a few days in Atlantic City. I’m coming for that New Jersey bagel.