I mean, I’ve had worse, but this one was a special brand of frustration.

About a jillion things went wrong and my supervisor was on a micromanaging tear, but this one anecdote stands out as a Sisyphean hell.

An elderly woman called my workplace asking for directions. This was slightly harder for me than it should’ve been because nobody’s ever done that before, and I seldom if ever pay attention to street signs. So without a polished rote answer for her, she had to heard me think aloud and troubleshoot just a bit before I came up with the correct directions. “Okay,” she said. “Let me repeat this back to you and make sure I got it right.” She repeated the directions, and I interjected with a landmark that I thought might help. “You’ll turn left at the McDonald’s.”

“I thought you’d said I turn right at MacDougal.”

“Yes, I did, that’s correct. McDonald’s is a just a landmark. You’ll turn left there, then right at MacDougal.”

“Well, that’s very confusing. Now, let me see if I’ve got it straight.” She repeats the directions step by step. I tell her yes, they are correct. But she wants to get it straight so she repeats them back again. And again, I say yes, they are correct. At this point, I asked if she had internet access, praying I could pawn her off on Google Maps, but no such luck. So she repeats the directions again. And I say yes, they are correct. So repeats them back again. And I say yes, that’s it. So she repeats them back again. And I say yes, they are correct. So she repeats them again. And I say yes, m’aam, it’s a left and two rights. And she says that’s not what I said the first time. So she repeats them back again. And now I’m so turned around that I can hardly tell left from right, or right from wrong, or my asshole from my elbow. Suddenly I couldn’t help but recall that one class period in fourth graded during I convinced myself that “we” was spelled with an “h” in it because I’d stared at the word too long for the letters to make sense anymore.

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Every couple of times she goes over it again, I try to throw in an extra tidbit to ease her anxiety (“It’ll be a T-shaped intersection, so you can only turn one way”) but the additional information only seems to complicate the picture for her. So I tell her that I’m pretty certain the first set of directions I provided were accurate. So she repeats them back again and asks me if they’re correct. And I say yes, you got it. So she repeats them again. And I say, “Yup, that’s it. Is there anything else I can help you with?” And she says, “Now, hold on a minute, I wanna make sure I get this right.” So she repeats them again. And I confirm that they’re absolutely correct. So she repeats them again.

This went on for approximately somewhere between fifteen minutes and fifteen years. Like Buffy and the mummy hand, only real.

I eventually lost my wits, let the phone drop, and waved over my supervisor who gave her a completely different set of directions, managed to get her off the phone in a fraction of the time, and then lectured me about patience and the appearance of positive attitudes.