I was part of a group that was supposed to set up a retreat in the Poconos, rural Pennsylvania.
At the resort, we asked the caretaker for the address of the place to send to the rest of the group. He smiled, warm in his dungarees and said, “We don’t have an address, but what I can give you is this.”
Then he did something I’ve been waiting for my whole life.
He rattled off a series of numbers, the longitude and latitude points for the place.
I was blown away. I remember thinking: “This is the future. Asking for someone’s address and getting GPS coordinates that pinpoint the exact location, this is it.”
No more boring, uncertain wordy addresses. I am never going back to the old ways.
Two years later in Lagos, I ask someone to give me details for a meeting and she sends me something that looks like this:
Opposite Oando Filling Station (formerly Mobil)
After old Aremu bus stop
Off Tiwadire Johnson Road
Off Salami Oremeji (formerly Kingsway)
Call Susan 0899258259…. ”
I’m sitting there with two pages of this not-quite directions. I call her back, “Huh, what is this? What am I supposed to do with it? Wh-what about numbers?”
I wanted the address of the place, not a short story on its history. Old Aremu, not new? Formerly, formerly, off, off? No house number?
The part that really got me was that last line, “Call Susan.” So even after all the directions, I would not be expected to find the place myself, I still have to phone a friend?
I can only make it ye far into my mission before I must summon the spirit of Susan to lead me the rest of the way?
When I call, I imagine Susan will appear, shimmering, and say, “Take this ring and this sword, you will need them to defeat the gryphon and cross the sea of glass. Godspeed.”
I would like to tell you I got there easily, I didn’t.
Susan didn’t pick up her phone when I called, so I did the next logical thing. I got down at the bus stop and asked a bike man to take me to Mayflower Estate.
There are two Mayflower estates in the same area. One is boldly labelled, the other is a secret enclave known only to a select few.
The bike man took me to the wrong one, the one with the big visible sign.
I had to walk 40 minutes back to the right place.