Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Wrong Way Corrigan


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By Diane Forrest

I am terrible with directions.  When my family moved to this city, my father would give me directions based on the nearest place to eat.   He would say, you go to McDonalds, take a right, keep going until you see the Pizza Hut, if you have passed Kentucky Fried Chicken, you have gone too far.  Then came the invention of the GPS, global positioning system.  This wonderful little device will allow you to enter an address, and will give you a map, and even guide you to your destination.  Even this handy little toy isn’t without its faults.  It depends on satellites to guide you along your way, but it also uses road maps, that are constantly changing.  When my stepson was getting married I entered the address of a dress shop.  I had tried for a year to find the perfect dress to wear to his wedding, and it had come to the day of the event, and I was still without a dress.  I knew the location of the shop across town, but there was one closer to where we were staying.  The GPS hadn't taken into account the redesigns of the roads because of new construction, so instead of sending me to a dress shop, I ended up at a car dealership. Time was passing quickly, and I needed a dress, so I ended up going way across town to the location I was familiar with.  The same thing happened on the way to a funeral of a family member.  Lucille, as our GPS was affectionately called, instructed us to turn right, instead of left, and we showed up at the service 5 minutes before it started, instead of the 2 hours early which we had planned on for the purpose of visiting with family.
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I think Douglas Corrigan had the same directional impairment that I suffer from.  In 1938 Douglas, an American aviator born in Galveston, Texas, had scheduled a flight from Long Beach California to New York.  On his return trip to California, something went wrong. Instead of ending up back in California, he found himself in Ireland.  He claimed his unauthorized flight was due to a navigational error, caused by heavy cloud cover that obscured landmarks and low-light conditions, causing him to misread his compass. However, he was a skilled aircraft mechanic (he was one of the builders of Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis) and had made several modifications to his own plane, preparing it for his transatlantic flight. He had been denied permission to make a nonstop flight from New York to Ireland, and his "navigational error" was seen as deliberate. Nevertheless, he never publicly admitted to having flown to Ireland intentionally. Despite the extent of Corrigan's illegality, he received only a mild punishment; his pilot's certificate was suspended for fourteen days.  He and his plane returned to New York on the steamship Manhattan and arrived on August 4, the last day of his suspension. His return was marked with great celebration. More people attended his Broadway ticker-tape parade than had honored Lindbergh after his triumph, but Corrigan was disappointed that his hero never acknowledged his achievement. He was also given a ticker tape parade in Chicago.
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Mr. Corrigan passed away in 1995 after a long and adventurous life.  His trip was memorialized in his autobiography, and was also the subject of a short story by James Thurber.  He was also depicted in an episode of Gilligan's Island and a Three Stooges movie.  He appeared as himself on the show To Tell the Truth, and he never admitted to purposely planning the trip.
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Today is the anniversary of that famous trip to Ireland that took 28 hours and 13 minutes. So if you get lost, don't feel too bad, It may not take you 28 hours to find your way back, and you won't get a ticker tape parade when you reach your destination, but you can be sure that you aren't the first one to lose your way, and you won't be known as one of the worst navigator’s in history.

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