My wife and I have a simple rule when we travel by car: I drive and she navigates.
The reason for this is twofold: I am a lousy passenger who turns green riding shotgun and I have a sense of direction worthy of Christopher Columbus. (Dude was headed to the East Indies and landed in the Bahamas. Truly a man I can relate to.)
I am, to be charitable, directionally challenged.
That might play into the male stereotype of guys who get lost and never ask for directions.
That is not me.
I am unafraid to ask for directions. Where I run afoul is in following them.
My internal compass is like a pinwheel in a hurricane.
I recall having to earn a badge as a Cub Scout and one of the assignments was to give directions to various landmarks, including a hospital. I recall telling my mother that the patient would be dead by the time I would be done giving directions.
“I am pretty sure you make a right at the dry cleaners. Or is it a left? You will see the Carvel on the corner. Oh. You know what? That’s now a burger joint. Say, have you thought about maybe just calling an ambulance?”
Before the introduction of GPS devices, I would get even more lost than I do now.
I would print out the directions from MapQuest, confident in my route.
But one of two things would happen:
1. I would be driving at night and unable to properly read the directions without turning on the overhead lamp and blinding myself.
2. I would have to peer over my glasses (which I need for driving) in order to properly read the text and I would be unable to do more than just take a glimpse because I was driving, which, in turn, would mean I would miss my turn or exit.
On more than one occasion I have called Meg and asked her to consult directions online and help me untangle the travel knot I had tied myself into.
It was not uncommon for 60-minute trips to last 90.
I fare better on mass transit, particularly New York City’s subway system, but once I emerge above ground, it’s like I have been blindfolded and spun around.
My dad, who knew the city like his own name, would give directions like: “You want to proceed west on 44th Street and then we will meet at the southeast corner of…”
I lost him as soon as he said “proceed west.”
I am much more a visual learner.
Tell me that if I suddenly get to the East River that I have gone the wrong way, and I will understand. But directions? Utterly meaningless to me.
Thanks to the introduction of smartphones, and improvements in the way apps deliver real-time traffic information and directions, I am slowly better about getting from here to there.
Certainly without a GPS or smartphone, I’d be lost.
Come to think of it, I AM lost.
I am somewhere in Columbus, the city named after the patron saint of the directionally challenged.
Can someone tell me how to get home?