A map is always handy to have

By Scott Ballard District Attorney

May 31, 2014

We had elections this week. Then, graduations. That’s a lot of crossroads.

Lots of choices. Plenty of directions to pick.

Whenever I think of crossroads, my mind drifts back to June 14, 1982.

Joy and I were newlyweds. And we were in Mexico.

No, not Acapulco. Not on a resort on a beach. Not even Tijuana.

We were in Merida. That’s on the Yucatan Peninsula. You see, we were headed for Chichen Itza. There is a Mayan pyramid there, along with other ancient ruins. Joy likes that kind of stuff.

For some reason, there were no direct flights from Atlanta to Chichen Itza. That’s probably because Chichen Itza is a tiny village in the middle of the jungle. So, we flew to Merida and spent the night there. The next morning we leased a Volkswagen Carribe. That’s Spanish for “Rabbit.”

They offered us a map. I declined, telling them I would just follow the road signs. After all, the village was about two hours away on Mexico 180. We roared off with a full tank of gas. Soon we left the city.

Then we came to crossroads. You’ve heard of Five Points? Well, this was Eight Points. Seriously, there were roads headed in eight different directions from the intersection. And all of them were named Mexico 180.

I picked one. We drove for several miles. No signs. No gas stations. Soon the road began to deteriorate. Before we knew it, the road was gravel. And, then it just stopped.

We were in the middle of a goat pasture.

Joy had been gently suggesting that I had chosen the wrong road for the past few miles. She’s a little quick to jump to conclusions like that. I viewed this as more of a road construction matter.

Regardless, I admitted that I should ask for directions. If only there were any people to ask.

Eventually a dump truck came by. This was my chance. I jumped out of the Carribe and flagged it down. In the back were about fifteen young men. All had high-powered rifles strapped to them.

Maybe I should have been heartened by the fact that the Second Amendment was thriving so well in Mexico. For some reason, that wasn’t my reaction. But we needed directions and these were the only people we had seen for an hour.

“Donde esta Chichen Itza?”

I think my perfect diction and apparent command of the language misled them. They provided complicated directions in Spanish. I understood a few words. Most important, I remembered the directions that they pointed. “Gracias,” I said as we reversed course and drove away.

Somehow, by the grace of God, we didn’t run out of gas. And, after stopping to ask directions from a family that lived in a thatched roof hut, we arrived at our hotel.

It was almost dark. And there were no lights in the hotel. Then I saw the sign on the door: “Out of business.” The hotel down the road would honor all reservations.

So, we ventured toward a hotel that I hadn’t selected and knew nothing about. I approached the front desk.

“Senior Ballardo!” The man welcomed me like we were old friends. And the place was beautiful. Sometimes fate smiles on fools and idiots.

But, for those of you at crossroads—be they graduations or elections—here’s a little advice.

Have a map.