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Connecticut is the Nutmeg State. Sure, your middle school civics teacher told you that Connecticut is the Constitution State, but that was just to make your teenage life a tad more miserable. You would have remembered Nutmeg on any pop quiz.

People here are proud to be called Nutmeggers. That’s a much kinder nickname than I wanted to give the three Connecti-cats (Connectici? Connecticeese?) who gave me lousy directions when I got lost on the way to buy a computer mouse this morning.

I readily admit that I can get lost anywhere, anytime, regardless of my familiarity with the terrain or the number of times I’ve traversed it. I am directionally challenged. Maps, while a great idea on paper, in practice only further confuse me.

I am at peace with my dull spatial skills; I have razor-sharp compensating strategies. I always have pen and paper handy, say “please” and “thank you,” and certainly am not above bribery or over tipping. I smile nervously, give a little shoulder shrug, and turn my palms to the sky – universal sign language for “I have no idea where in the hell I am.”

But the thing about getting lost in the Nutmeg state, I found, is that Nutmeggers aren’t sure where the hell they are either.

Oh, they’re eager to help. They rush up, one by one, nodding self-assured noggins while spinning the map first clockwise, then counterclockwise, and then conferring in a Nutmeg huddle. They debate the shortcut vs. the long way, the highway vs. the back roads, and offer traffic pattern predictions and possible delays along each route.

 In the end, the Nutmeggers project just the right combination of confidence and determination while I frantically take notes and rue the day I  decided against taking that shorthand class in high school.

“Okay, I’ve got it,” I say to the Nutmeggers. “You’re sure this will get me there?” I ask, slipping back into my car. Through my dusty windshield I watch the self-congratulatory look in each Nutmegger’s eye as they shake hands and pat each other on the shoulder. I read their lips to see if they’re planning a parade or a celebratory picnic.

I drive two miles down the road and there are no promised markers, no “Big sign, can’t miss it.” Nothing matches my notes. I’m lost again. Lost. Again. I stop, ask another Nutmegger. Rinse and repeat.

Hours later I am finally home, only to discover that I purchased a mouse that will have nothing to do with my cheesy computer. In a moment of conspicuous consumerism I bought a wireless model. Sleek and snappy. The Nutmegger at Best Buy assured me the gadget would work on my Dell, that it was a simple matter of “plug it in, pop in the batteries, that’s it.”

Not exactly. There’s a bit more to it: a CD ROM and a 50-step set-up matrix and, as luck would have it, the mouse is not compatible with my PC. I should have known. A mouse without a tail … well, rats!

So, it’s back in the car, back to Bust Buy, back to trusting Nutmeggers along the back roads of eastern Connecticut. I knew I would get lost again. I did.

This all happens on a day when my Sidekick is on the fritz. I’m driving aimlessly with no internet or email access, no cell phone. Just me, my mouse-in-the-box and a notebook full of directions leading directly from Point A to Point Nowhere.

It’s just as well. The only people I know to call are Nutmeggers.

The mouse-capade is over, I only swore twice while installing the basic model, and I rewarded myself with the Sarah McLachlan CD Afterglow. She lives in Canada. I’d like to get lost there sometime.

But I’d probably never find my way out of Connecticut.

(With apologies to the good people of Connecticut, which is also known as The Provision State and The Land of Steady Habits. I kid you not).

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