I hate being lost. In fact, several years ago I had an almost a paralyzing fear of going anywhere I was unfamiliar with because the fear of getting lost was just too great. I missed out on a lot of opportunities to visit friends in other cities simply because I was too scared to venture off to anywhere I'd never been before. I've since gotten over much of that fear but even now, I am really uncomfortable not knowing where I'm going, particularly when I'm by myself.
Living in Toronto, I find myself lost on a very regular basis but I really try not to let it restrict me from doing fun things. Last night I had an opportunity to visit a local drinking establishment and not surprisingly, I found myself lost in some area of the city I'd never been before while trying to make my way to the bar. I asked several people for directions. All were unhelpful.
While standing at an intersection looking quizzically around me for some indication of the direction of my destination, a older man, in his late 50's or early 60's, approached me and asked where I was going. I told him the street name and he told me I was going the wrong way. He told me directions and I must have looked confused because he said, "Actually, let me just walk you there. It's not far." Oh terrific, I thought. I'm probably going to get raped and mugged by some old creep in an alley somewhere. I found myself instinctively feeling around my purse for the location of my pepper spray. I told him it was not necessary to walk with me. I was sure he had somewhere he must be going and far be it for me to cause him to go out of his way. But he insisted.
As we walked, he began telling me that he was a retired hotel concierge and cab driver. He said he knew the city well and liked helping people find things. That's exactly what I'd tell some young, blonde girl lost on the street corner if I were a psychopath, I thought. As he walked next to me, I listened uncomfortably as he rattled on about his favourite areas of the city and the places that used to be popular when he was my age. He asked my name and where I was from. I reluctantly told him while plotting an escape route in my head should things turn sour. We continued walking. I blindly followed him thinking that he could be leading me anywhere and here I was following like some naive child being lured away by the temptation of a bag of candy.
We reached the destination which to be honest, I likely wouldn't have easily found without his direction. He extended his arm in a friendly handshake to part ways and I awkwardly thanked him for his help. Turns out he really was just some guy with nothing to do who just genuinely wanted to help. I immediatley felt bad for judging him so harshly. But you never know. We're programmed to be suspicious of strangers, and not without good reason.
At least I'll know how to get to this place next time.