I am geographically challenged.
I was recently stopped in a queue of traffic at some traffic lights, unsure of the direction to go. I could see the sign in front of me saying the Interstate East was to the right, and the Interstate West was straight ahead, so I said I think we need to go West on the intestate, so I’ll go straight ahead. My companion looked at me strangely, and said, but west is to our left, straight on is South.
And of course we were both correct, because the road ahead bent and joined the west-bound interstate, although it started off going south. Apparently.
Because the thing is I get the concept of North, South, East and West – I can tell you that the sun rises in the East, and that you go West from New York to get to California – but that is just “head knowledge”. When it comes to getting around on the ground it doesn’t come naturally to me. In fact, I can be driving into a sunset, and not realize that I’m maybe not heading East as I had intended.
Another example – A few years ago I moved to a new town, and was constantly getting lost between the station and the place I was living. Why? Because I couldn’t understand how the roads all fitted together. This was a very old town, so didn’t have the grid system we see in more modern places, and it’s interconnected roadways just totally befuddled me.
It took me a few weeks to get into my head how I needed to turn to get from A to B in the best way. And heaven forbid that a tourist asked me for directions! I’d normally try to say I was a stranger too, which sometimes caused puzzled looks as I carried home my weekly groceries.
My friends with better Geographical ability despair of me.
They will say “Helpful” things like, well it’s next to (some place that we have been at together), near (some other place that is familiar to us).
But to me those places – familiar as they are – are random places I remember, in a featureless ocean.
Actually, that’s a good analogy. My friends can – it appears – see in their heads a map connecting all the places they know. To me, these places are just ships floating aimlessly on a huge ocean. I will recognize them when I happen upon them, but where they are next time is anyones guess.
In this I am both helped and hindered by having a GPS in the car.
It helps because now I can get from A to B safely because the eye in the sky knows where I am, even when I don’t (which is most of the time).
But the down-side is that I now never get the opportunity to learn the connections because I can get there anyway. I am increasing the number of places that are just ships floating on the ocean.
So, next time you give me directions, and I appear to be taking notice, know that inwardly I’m still saying, wait – which way is North again?