Friday, December 02, 2022

Handy-Dandy Things to Know

 Frankie here. 

This week I had been invited to do a writing workshop at a college the next city over. On Tuesday  afternoon  I prepared my Power Point slides that would keep me on track as I talked about the writing process. On Wednesday morning, I wrote for a couple of hours. Then I had lunch and got dressed. The class meets at 2 pm, and I wanted to leave home at around 1 pm. That would have given me about half and hour to spare after I drove over and found street parking. (Note the foreshadowing!)

Since I rarely go to this other city, I got out my GPS. Sitting in the driveway I put in the address that I had found on the college website. Then I backed out into the street with my comforting female GPS voice telling me which way to turn.  

I alread knew that, so I ignored her instructions. Then we got to the exit that the directions online had identified. She agreed. I glancded at my dashboard clock and relaxed. I was on schedule. 

Following her instructions about when and where to turn, I found "2nd Avenue" and saw some buildings that looked large enoungh to belong to an urban college campus. I even saw some young people waiting at a bus stop in front of one of them.

"Nailed it!" I thought.  

I was doubtful about whether I should park in what seemed to be a visitors lot because the instructor of the class had said there was a parking lot (and circled it on the map she had sent me). But she also had said it was easier to find a parking place on the street. Were there so few visitors to the campus that this lot was only half-full? And why hadn't she suggested I park there. 

But the GPS had brought me there. I got out and trotted over to the people waiting in line at the bus stop. I asked a young man if he could point me toward the campus center, He looked puzzled and shook his head. Several other people turned to look at me, and I asked the line of about ten people if anyone knew. That was when I thought to ask if I was actually on the college campus. They all shook their heads.

Panicking, I hurried back to my car. I found the address I  had written down and checked what I had put in my GPS. Both the same.

With the clock ticking, I dug in my shoulder bag for my phone and started scrolling through my emails for the one out of seven or eight in which the instructor had sent me her phone number. I sighed with relief when my phone rang. She was calling to make sure I was on the way. 

I explained my dilemma and gave her my street location. She laughed and said, "You're on 2nd Avenue. You want 2nd Street." 

She assured me there was no need to panic. She had the room for two hours and I was nearby. 

She was right. I was there in six minutes. I spent another seven trying to parallel park with traffic behind me. Not one of my skills even when I'm on an empty street. I passed my driver's license test as a teenager after my father and I had spent several Sunday mornings in an empty parking lot. He discovered that there was a crack in the sidewalk that could use as a marker when I begin backing in. . It worked. I have gotten better over the years, but not when I am rattled. 

I gave up. Pulling into an illegal spot, I called to let the instructor know I was there. I mentioned going down the side street at the corrner to find a spot and she said that would work.  She said she would come out to meet me on the 2nd Street side of the campus green. She would be wearing a pink sweater.

I was in luck on the side street. Half way down, I found lots of parking space just beyond the last car in the line. I grabbed my tote bag and headed toward the building -- turning in the wrong direction on the campus sidewalk, but making a course direction.  I sent up a silent cheer when I saw the instructor in her pink sweater waving from the other side of the lawn. We met, she greeted me with a smile and introduced herself -- probably to reassure me that I hadn't found the wrong woman in a pink sweater. 

I walked into the class after a quick stop in the women's room to wipe my damp face (remember the rain shower). Hoping for laughter, I joked that my protagonists had a much better sense of direction than I did. They were amused. I had emailed my Power Point slides and the instructor had them up and ready to go. Even the students who were Zooming in from London were there and waiting. 

The presentation went well, and I got to the Q and A. We were discussing writing a series when I heard myself say that it was important to think about the skill set that a protagonist might need several books later. I mentioned that in my fifth Lizzie Stuart novel she had needed to be able to swim when she found herself in a car in the water. She had been taking swimming lessons. 

The thing was that I was sure I had mentioned that in an earlier book and said I had. But later I wondered if I had. I thought it was in the third book -- but in that book she had been training to take part in a half-marathon. The training was important to the plot, and she had made it through with the other walkers. 

The question about what Lizzie now knows and how and why she knows it made me stop to ponder what every good series protagonist should know. When I glanced at my bookcase, I saw the books I have collected over the years. There was The Boys' Book: How to Be the Best at Everything. I could also see The Survival Handbook for Everyone. I knew that in another bookcase I have the Official Army Survival Handbook and a field guide to doing the things Girl Scouts learn to do.

I also have books on how to play chess and a box containing yarn and an introduction to knitting. I have a magnet on my refrigerator about wines. I have a handbooks on riding horses (took lessons) and doing first aid. Whenever I see a book about how to do something I snag it. If Lizzie is ever in a hotel room and awaken by a smoke alarm or lost in the woods, she will have read about what to do. Even if I didn't say she was taking swimming lessons, I did mention that she had the Army Survival Guide. That had amused John Quinn, her boy friend, because he is a former Army Ranger. 

But I've been pondering how many handy skills I should give my third protagonist Jo Radcliffe. She was an Army nurse during World War II and served abroad. She is home again now, and she has only appeared in two short stories. 

I am going to take my own advice and give this some thought. I got lucky with Lizzie because she is the type of bookworm who would have read about things that she can't do. She decided to add to her skill set when she met a man who can do things she can't. But Jo Radcliffe is going to be too busy working as a public health nurse to learn what she doesn't know. 

I'm glad I remembered that. One thing for sure -- she will have a better sense of direction than I do. 


Charlotte Hinger said...

Frankie, you don't even come close to my bad sense of direction gene. It's terrible

Frankie Y. Bailey said...

I'm glad to hear that, Charlotte. I can get lost walking through a building, too.