The other day I was driving back from Orange County on the 91 freeway, my mind preoccupied on one too many things. Without realizing it I ended up on another freeway heading in the opposite direction. Now the oddity behind this is that I didn’t realize that I had done so until I happen to pass a shopping mall that wasn’t there when I first drove into Orange County.

Now, of course, my thoughts shifted to why I hadn’t seen the shopping mall before. Had I not paid close enough attention when I was driving past the first time? The mall had a Neiman Marcus and a Borders Bookstore, how could I have been so blind? Or were little builder elves playing a trick on me and somehow in the expanse of two hours managed to build an enormous complex, rent storefronts, and stock shelves? Boy those elves nowadays are fast!

 My thought process took its sweet time to realize that I took the wrong off-ramp. Me? How could I… no it couldn’t be! When that idea finally entered my mind I was well on my way to Los Angeles, strange enough still thinking about the Neiman Marcus illusion. Not that I mind Las Angeles but it was hardly the place I wanted to drive in five ‘o’clock traffic; or should I say… crawl?

It wasn’t actually until I saw the sign saying 10 Freeway did I come to the conclusion I had way too much on my mind. I stopped (after I got off the freeway, of course) and rethought how I managed to deviate nearly twenty miles off my intended path. And where stopped the car just happened to be directly in front of a cemetery. .. which I admit made my skin crawl.

Several deep breaths later I managed to get back on the right freeway and headed towards home. When I reached the 91 freeway again, traffic was backed up for miles. And of course, I cursed myself for if I hadn’t gone off on my daydream and slipped onto the wrong ramp I would have probably been home by then. But as the traffic moved I saw a multiple car crash on the side, the kind of crash you just know that someone wasn’t going to make it home from dinner. And by the looks of the crash, it would have happened around the time I was going to drive through… if I hadn’t switched my paths.

I took several things from that experience. To start, daydreams are much like cell phones – distracting and should be illegal while driving. The second, so what if you miss your off-ramp, you may find another Neiman Marcus. Third, a little detour may save your life and make you realize what is important. And last – don’t trust elves.