Ever been told to “get lost”? Probably not, as the phrase seems like more of a pop culture cliche of yesteryear than something one would actually say. But you know, you really should try it sometime.
It was back around 2000 or 2001 if I recall correctly. My roommate (and one of my five best friends so far in this life) Jeff Ellis and I lived off-base in Caversfield while stationed at R.A.F Croughton, about 20-30 minutes north of Oxford along the A43. We were both recently divorced, but where I had the good fortune of leaving my ex-wife and bad history behind me in the States, Jeff had married a Brit who worked on base and had to deal with that (and her sleeping with another G.I that lived just down the street) on a daily basis.
So we’re driving home from base one day and it’s been a particularly rough day for Jeff. My job on these days was basically to cheer him up, and whether through encouragement or mayhem made no difference to me. (In fact, at one point Jeff theorized that I wasn’t even real but was his Tyler Durden. That’s a story for another day.) Our friendship actually began this very same way, according to him. We met in tech school and his girlfriend had just broken up with him. I refused to allow him to wallow in self-pity and forced him to engage in a healthy amount of chaos in the name of fun. It pretty much set the pattern for our friendship, because as we’re driving home nothing I can say or do is causing him to stir from his morose state.
So I took a wrong turn.
England’s a country smaller than my home state of Arizona, and it’s pretty hard to get lost on a 20 minute drive from point A to B when there are only about 3 routes and they all involve the A43 at some point. But I was driving down one of the smaller country backroads and we came to the T-junction where we always turned right. That was the way home. That was routine. That was what we did because we were supposed to do. And Jeff got up like he’d been shot in the rear when I turned left.
“What are you doing?! Where are we going?!”
“I don’t know. But you’re in a funk so we’re going to take a bunch of wrong turns and get lost until we find something awesome or run out of gas and die in the wilderness.”
We made it less than a mile before we found something awesome. We stumbled upon The Butcher’s Arms in Fringford. It was just too cool, and though we’d both been to pubs before this was one in a small village where some houses still had thatch roofs and had been in walking distance from us the whole time- yet we never knew about it. There was a beautiful football pitch right out front that ran along the roadside and suddenly we both knew we had chanced upon something worth exploring. It hadn’t taken long to discover a reason to “get lost” and it had taken even less time to break my best friend of his sullen mood.
The pub was a small building with low ceilings and a vestibule so tiny it was almost impossible for two people to enter at once and deal with the doors both opening toward each other. There was a dartboard, a bar that wrapped around through two rooms, a ladies’ restroom indoors while gents had to use the “loo” outside, and a small group of regular locals that wound up welcoming Jeff and I like we were long-lost friends. It was like Cheers, where everybody knows your name (not difficult in a village with a population of 613) and it came to epitomize everything a pub should be in my mind.
Over the years we frequented the pub and became regulars ourselves. We made strong friendships with villagers there. We went to Fringford’s Guy Fawkes Day celebration. We had Sunday roast dinner with Steve, and had his family over to our house where I cooked them tacos. We witnessed the little feuds and bickering between families in Fringford. We stayed awake all night laying in the grass of the pitch with blowguns trying to kill a feral cat for the pubmaster (mischief!). We held going away parties for G.I.s heading to a new assignment, and if we really liked a co-worker (Sean Smith) then we brought them into the fold.
The pub changed hands over the years, with new ownership. The faces of regulars changed as some quit showing up and others joined the rotation. Reviews from last year make it sound much more insular and not as warm or fun as the fond memories I hold. That’s the nature of things, I suppose. But I have two years worth of extremely fond memories: great friendships and truly crazy antics thanks to Sid Beckett and the Banbury crew of Comic Connections and some truly dear friends made by one wrong turn that lead to the Butcher’s Arms.
My point with all of this isn’t too dissimilar from a recurring theme in my ideology. Heck, it’s exactly the same at the heart: go have an adventure. It’s imperative to having a full life, even if it’s just a “wrong” turn someday. You don’t have go scuba diving in the Indian Ocean or learn how to fly a plane (I got the chance to “take the stick” when I was in 7th grade, learn about yaw, etc.). You can have an adventure with something as small as seeing some small road off the Interstate and taking the time to find out where it goes. Or finding a small town within an hour of you that the Interstate doesn’t even touch and discover Peppersauce Cave. Or simply go spend the weekend in your state’s capitol, another large city, another state … Just go DO something! Go SEE something! And go discover anything that you never knew was there. Don’t hole up and be a hermit. Don’t constrain yourself to a small existence. Don’t self-impose limitations that aren’t really there. Take a dance or a cooking class at the local community college. Find a martial arts class. Learn something, so somewhere, and discover a story to tell. Because it will drastically enrich your life.
And it can start with something as simple as a wrong turn, trying to get lost.