See Sam Drive: Lost in mid-cities

If I ever doubted that no good deed goes unpunished, the lesson was reinforced today.

Michael had a job interview and asked to borrow the truck, since the air conditioning is out in his car.

(This is February, you say. This is Texas, I tell you.)

So out of his routine was he, that when he returned to the truck after the interview, he realized he locked the key inside. He called to ask whether there was a hide-a-key.

(No, son, a hide-a-key is something parents make their kids do with their own car.)

He didn’t want to pay for a locksmith if Sam could come with a spare. There was time. Sam loaded directions in the GPS on his phone and headed out.

Sam is not a fan of I-35. E or W. He took State Highway 114 and headed south on Precinct Line Road to where Michael was, in North Richland Hills. That was probably a mistake. Maybe U.S. Highway 377 would have been better. He got lost somewhere in Keller — so lost that he pulled over and called police to get help. They came and gave him directions.

Sam made it to the parking lot where Michael was waiting and the two of them were supposed to follow each other to I-820, where they would part ways at I-35W.

I thought all was well and then Michael called me again.

“I lost him,” he said.

Every parent of a child with autism knows this terror. And now his brother was learning it, too. Michael recounted as much of the situation as he could, starting with the moment he realized Sam was heading down State Highway 183 the wrong way, and I was at a loss of what to suggest next.

Sam had turned his phone off to save battery life. That worried us both. Not only was he not communicating with us, we knew “Siri” wasn’t giving him directions home.

“Call the police. Make a report,” I told him. “We can’t do this. We need the village.”

A co-worker (one of several that talked me off the ledge today) offered to take me home and Shahla provided a bit of support via text. Meanwhile, Michael was making a report with the police. I so hoped that Sam would be parked in the driveway when I got home, but he wasn’t.

I put an alert on Facebook and started to regroup. I would take Michael’s car and meet him and the police in North Richland Hills where they were making a missing persons report. (Because Sam has autism, it would have gone out immediately.)

And then Sam came down the driveway. I called Michael. The police shredded the missing persons report Michael had just signed.

Sam's car parked in the barn formerly known as a garage

Sam’s car parked in the barn formerly known as a garage

It took awhile for the emotions to settle and the conversation to begin. Sam knew he had separated from Michael and had been going the wrong way down the highway. But he remembered the directions Michael gave and when he was sure things weren’t looking right, he turned around and went the other way. He stopped at a medical center to get directions, too, and then he headed home.

(So, Tim Ruggiero, not only pizza places, but also medical centers are good places to get directions, we learned today.)

We gave ourselves a list of things to do, like Michael joining AAA, and Sam putting GPS in his car with a “home” button, and me putting a hide-a-key on the truck, so that all our good deeds trying to help each other out don’t get so punishing.

And, a big shout-out to all of the mid-cities’ finest. You got to know autism today and you did well. 


  1. Tim Ruggiero on February 20, 2014 at 3:30 am

    I probably should be embarrassed to say, but I’m not, that I can get lost getting out of my own driveway. It only took maybe 400 trips, but I can actually drive from home to the airport without the aid of a GPS, Pizza Hut or a major hospital. Don’t know where anything else is, but I can find my way home and to the airport.

    I remember a time many years ago, when I was in the Navy, and the ship I was stationed on moved from San Diego to Long Beach. A friend had a car, and loaned it to me on the condition I drive it up to Long Beach. There were only like two highways and one exit. Piece of cake. It’s about (so I’m told) about 2 to 2.5 hour drive. 4 hours later, I’m pretty sure I’m lost. My first clue, okay, my second clue was when I passed the city limit sign for Los Angeles. If you know anything about LA, you don’t just get off on an exit and ‘loop under’ and go back. You have to drive through residential areas. And go around in circles. I was so lost, I couldn’t find my way back to where I started getting lost at. It’s late at night, not much is open, what is open has bars on their windows. Gas station attendants are sitting in bullet proof cages. I’m screwed. I then see a donut shop and seriously, there are two CHP cars parked out front. Hooray! I go in and ask the cop if he can tell me how to get to the navy station. He turns to his partner and asks, “We have a navy base around here? When did that go in?” I almost vomited on the cop. Okay, if the damn State Police don’t know where the navy base is, I am truly screwed. Oh, did I happen to mention that I’m going to be AWOL in like 3 hours? So the cops are radioing in for directions, I use the payphone to call the duty commander. “If I get arrested and go to jail, am I still considered AWOL?” “What did you get arrested for?” “Vomiting on a State Cop”. “Yes, you’re still AWOL. Why did you puke on a cop?” “I didn’t…yet. Gotta go”. For some reason, I remembered that the exit was the St. Vincent’s Bridge. Okay, the cops know exactly where that is. I made it to the base and my ship with minutes to spare. Like maybe 15 minutes. Since I didn’t have..or my friend didn’t have a base pass for his car, I had to park outside the base and then run like hell. Naturally, the first question I was asked when I boarded the ship was “You the dumbass that ralphed on a state cop?” In the time it took me to drive from San Diego to Long Beach, I could have driven to Long Beach and back with time to spare. Ever since, it has not been beneath me to stop and ask directions. Often from my wife before I leave the house.

  2. Peggy on February 20, 2014 at 4:10 am

    What a story, Tim. I told Sam that when I first moved to Denton, as a college student, and had to drive to Dallas, I would always give myself 45 minutes of lost time. There were times that wasn’t enough.

  3. TXsharon on February 20, 2014 at 6:05 am

    I call it dither time. And I assure Earthworks that I don’t charge them for dither miles.

    I almost vomited when I read your post on FB. It was like I was seeing my future.

  4. Peggy on February 20, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    Dearest Sharon and Adam, I’m waving my beads so that it never, ever happens to you. Ever.

  5. Cindy on February 20, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    I have a terrible sense of direction. Confession: When I was living in North Richland Hills, I got so turned around that I cried. Anxiety! I pulled into a gas station and saw a NRHPD car. I asked the officer where I was (on the way to Colleyville). He was really kind. Gave me simple directions.

    Very, very glad everyone is accounted for.

  6. Peggy on February 21, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    Last night, Sam ordered a car dock with an FM transmitter. He liked that he could still use his preferred navigation system (Waze), keep his phone charged at all times while on the road, and listen to his favorite tunes, too.

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