Never trust a Petitto’s sense of direction, especially in a parking garage!

This is a story you’ll likely hear in person and probably from several people over the years, but it’s too good to not write down here. I have a poor sense of direction while driving a car, but it’s not my fault. Surely it has something to do with a motor vehicle’s ability to travel great distances at high rates of speed and change direction quickly, but the Petitto internal compass can’t keep up. On foot, even in the wilderness, I do all right. Put me in a car and I get twisted around in a hurry. This problem goes back at least two generations before me.

One year your Great Grandma and Grandpa Petitto brought your Uncle Carl and I to Ottawa, Canada for a day-trip. We wandered around the city and had a nice time. Actually I don’t remember many details, I was pretty young, probably 7 or 8 years old. ¬†What I do remember in perfect detail was our time in the parking garage near the parliament buildings where we parked.

Trying to exit the parking garage was a huge ordeal. Grandpa’s first attempt resulted in us paying our parking fee and somehow looping back into the garage. The attendant at the booth was quite surprised to see us again and fortunately there was no fee for merely circling through the garage a second time, the only cost was a blow to Grandpa’s pride.

Again we attempted to exit. Again Grandpa made a wrong turn and ended up back in the bowels of the garage. A big part of the problem was the broken English the attendant used in trying to speak with Grandpa. Canada, being a bilingual country, has many citizens who use French as their primary language. The guy in the parking garage was definitely most comfortable speaking French as his English left much to be desired. Grandpa only spoke English and Italian, so there was a definite communication breakdown.

When we pulled up to the exit booth a third time, the attendant threw his hands up in the air, and in French probably said “Oh no, not you again!” Or perhaps he said something much more colorful, we’ll never know. He jumped out of his booth and began leading us on foot. At one point he cut a corner short and went between two cars so as to not have to walk all the way around in leading us toward the exit. Grandpa tried to follow him through the few feet of space that separated the cars! We didn’t crash into the cars, but I remember jerking forward and back in my seat as Grandpa tapped the accelerator and slammed the break a couple times while trying to figure out how to drive between the cars. The attendant threw his hands up in the air again and with very pronounced arm motions gestured us to drive AROUND the cars! Needless to say there was a lot of yelling and swearing in our car. Grandma was freaking out, Carl and I didn’t know what was going on, and the Frenchman must have thought we were completely insane.

Eventually the attendant had us back on track and we were out of the garage, no thanks to your Great Grandfather’s poor sense of direction. Hopefully you don’t inherit this problem and end up directionally-challenged like the rest of the Petitto clan. You might get lucky and inherit the reliable Chapman navigational skill. However you turn out, don’t hesitate to ask for directions and learn basic phraseology for the languages spoken in countries you plan to visit.