I knew three minutes in that I had made a bad decision.

By five minutes, I knew it was a very bad decision.

Twisty country roads, late at night, in the middle of a place that makes “living in the sticks” seem like urban crowding.

I was in Berne, New York. Population 2,700. By my estimate, those people, however, must cover 300 square miles, which is why there is an East Berne and a West Berne and a North Berne and a South Berne. I live in a town seven times that number and we don’t get the compass involved one bit.

I passed yet another farm and turned down another desolate road. A pair of raccoons skittered across my path. I could feel my heart beating faster, as if my body sensed how completely up the creek I was before my brain did.

The maps app on my phone was not working. I had done something wrong, pushed something or other, and I was, I will admit, too scared to pull over and mess around with a finicky phone because I was quite certain children with sickles were in the numerous corn fields all around, waiting for me to do just that.

No, my only hope was to turn around and pray I could find my way back to the camp I had dropped my eldest child off at 15 minutes before.

I turned the van around, trying to remember the turns I had taken to get me to this point. I passed a deer. And a dead fox. An old tractor. I drove slowly, stayed the course and eventually retraced my way back to camp. I would try again in the morning light.

The next day, I was feeling good. I had sunlight and my phone was working again, though the battery was low because I did not bring a charger because, naturally, I did not anticipate doing a slumber party in the Twilight Zone.

I munched on a granola bar I had found in my car as I drove, wondering where people around here buy food. I reasoned that this must be bartering country. You know, I’ll trade you this glass jar of cow’s milk if you sew me a shirt and give me a dress apron full of eggs.

“Turn right and then make a sharp left,” instructed my phone’s GPS.

I turned right but paused on making that sharp left, as doing so would have required me to drive across a field.

My heart started beating a little faster.

Was I getting lost again? No problem, my phone will reroute me. Well, unless it goes dead. Which, of course, it did, right before announcing my anticipated time of arrival had increased by two minutes, not decreased. Was I getting farther from home?

That’s when I saw the sign, “Welcome to the Town of Berne.”


Martha Petteys writes a weekly column for The Post-Star. Write to her at petteyshome@gmail.com or visit her on Facebook.


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