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Sigh. Recalculating....Where I'm Going In 2009

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Sigh. Recalculating....Where I'm Going In 2009

My first run-in with a global positioning device was last fall in Warwick, Rhode Island. Yes, I still use maps printed on paper. You'll see why after this story. I was in town for the grand opening of a NYLO hotel with my sister, Betsy, and brother-in-law, John, who is the company's CEO. The next morning Betsy, her friend, Bebe, and I decided to poke around Providence.

Off we went in my rental car, entrusting ourselves to a rented Garmin. She -- the device had a female voice -- got us there. But there were a few wrong turns along the way. And each mistake earned me Ms. G's contempt.

It went like this.

Turn.

Me: "Oops. I don't think that was right."

Ms. G: "(sigh) Recalculating...."

It was all in the intonation, which was slow, low and conveyed thinly-disguised disappointment. I also detected a certain sense of hopelessness, as if she had pegged me as a slow-learner from the moment my hands touched the steering wheel. All she lacked were eyes to roll heavenward. We began making wrong turns with reckless abandon, howling in laughter every time the reproving voice materialized.

I've been thinking about this sourpuss lately because the world's financial meltdown has thrown me, like everyone, into Sigh-Recalculating mode. Our plan to retire in X years? Sigh. Recalculating. Our carefully amassed savings to pay for two college tuitions? Sigh. Recalculating. Home improvement projects and travel? Sigh. Recalculating.

The course I'd imagined for myself is blocked, maybe permanently. It's infuriating for a rule-follower like me. I did my part. But the SEC, the Federal Reserve Bank, mortgage banks, hedge funds, commercial banks and Bernie Madoff tampered fatally with the equation and so the next part -- the = sign -- has been erased. All my diligence equals... what?

When I'm not wondering if I should learn to grow crops in the backyard, I feel a strange liberation in not knowing what's ahead. Could my husband and I rent our house and be ski bums for a year? Should we become toxic asset specialists? Should I stop reading and listening to the news? Clean my own house? Clean someone else's house?

It's all up in the air, whirling and rotating, making me wonder if my big mistake was my Garmin-like belief that there is only one correct coursen -- and that my destination is fixed.