I was a horrible limo driver: I ran out of gas with passengers in the back and I used to get lost on a regular basis.
— John Slattery
Ken Jennings (whose claim to fame is having the record for the longest winning streak on Jeopardy in America) has been quoted as saying, ‘There’s just something hypnotic about maps.’
I am rather afraid I am more like John Slattery in that I have the capacity to get lost on a regular basis and, unlike Ken Jennings, I find maps utterly painful and confusing to read.
My worst map-reading ‘epic fail’ happened when I was living in Newcastle over 20 years ago. We were supposed to be going somewhere north of Newcastle (I can’t remember where right now), my husband was driving and I was the map-reader.
For starters, I get motion sickness when I have to read in the car. Secondly, I need to peruse a map book for a long time, writing down detailed instructions (like: turn right at Lonsdale St; 2nd left into Stockdale Cres; first exit off roundabout into Clarrie Pl) well before departure. I did not have time, or the presence of mind, to do this before we left so I was trying to work out directions on the run.
We ended up in Maitland! For those who don’t know, Maitland is nowhere near direct north of Newcastle (or maybe it is, but that wasn’t where we wanted to go, not even close). We were way, way off track.
When driving somewhere new, I need my trusty handwritten list of explicit detail directions — not just the first time, but usually the first four to five times. Woe is me if there happens to be detours in place at any time during or after my learning period.
There are some places I go to sort of infrequently, (but not so much that I shouldn’t remember how to get there) that I always have trouble with. One such place is Fyshwick in Canberra. This is a semi-industrial area, rather than being residential, and consists of about 15 streets in total; there are some stores I go to regularly but, even after over 20 years, I still need to get out the map book (or log on to Google maps these days) and write up my directions.
I tend not to favour GPS devices either. They are like travelling with my mother and husband in that the direction for the next turn tends to come way too late. I may be in the far left lane when, less than 20 metres from the turn comes the instruction, ‘Next right.’ No! I need to know well beforehand so I am already place in the right-hand lane.
Driving is not so bad if I know where I am going. I am not totally clueless, I can get myself out of a pickle, but I just prefer to be well organised.
When it comes to being ‘directionless’ though, my husband takes the cake in shopping malls. If he is driving, he is fine — ‘Just use the landmarks,’ he sighs at me. Well, I use ‘landmarks’ in shopping malls and have no issues … my husband on the other hand does not seem to know one shop from the other. I guess our brains are just wired differently.