I was supposed to go to Lisbon last year, and I did not.

I don’t have any family or friends there or any especially meaningful local connections, but it was still distressing because Lisbon is - mysteriously - one of the unintentional pivot points in my life.  

Backtrack - the public library in Granby, Connecticut.  This would have been thereabouts of 1992/3 and I was 6.

The library had computers - of the DOS and floppy variety - in the children’s area, which I apparently showed enough aptitude to play.  The game I specifically recall was Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?

Even by that age, I was relatively well-traveled - the unintentional beneficiary of a military family - but it’s safe to say I hadn’t seen the Taj Mahal or the Brandenburg Gate or the Hermitage (Only 1/3 now).  

The thing though is that the game had a bug.  Maybe someone had done some custom coding which was easy enough to do back then, or maybe the floppy disk was damaged, or maybe it was all just broken - but the final answer to every question was always - absolutely always - Lisbon.

Where is the Space Needle?  Lisbon.

Where is the Grand Canyon?  Lisbon.

Where is Carmen Sandiego?  Forever and always Lisbon.

To this day, my mental image of Lisbon is as a sort of statue graveyard filled with all the world’s greatest wonders.  I fully expect to see Rome, China, and Berlin somehow piled up beside the Nile River and Machu Pichu.

In any case, having discovered the bug I quickly racked up the highest score ever like an obsessed pinball player which might have been a great source of pride had it not effectively destroyed the game.  In practice, it was probably a one-line variable in a file that needed to be cleared, or some memory released.  A simple reinstall would have assuredly sorted it out too, but of course, I didn’t know that.

All I knew was that Carmen San Diego was in Lisbon and that I’d royally borked the library computer.

Thirty years later, and I’m still paying for the crime…

But at least one of these days I’ll get Lisbon.


Robert Drake is the Assistant Director for Technology Operations at the Nassau Library System.  He also broke Oregon Trail and Sim Ant but he’s pretty sure those weren’t his fault.  The views and positions here expressed are his alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of NLS, Robert Drake himself, or probably anyone...